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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Together, We Can Stop the Planned National Shut Down of the Social Security WIPA and PABSS Employment Support Counseling Services

Employment = Empowerment protest signAdvocates, you are making a difference, but there is still much work left to do!

We have new evidence that your efforts are working, and reason to fight harder than ever to prevent the national shutdown of WIPA and PABSS. The new Senate Appropriations Labor HHS Bill has report language that strongly encourages the Commissioner of Social Security to continue these programs, and to use his authority to extend WIPA and PABSS grants as soon as possible for up to 1 year. Here is a direct excerpt from the Committee Report:

“Work Incentives Planning and Assistance [WIPA] and Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security [PABSS].—The WIPA and PABSS programs provide valuable services to disabled beneficiaries, particularly in helping them return to work. However, because of a delay in the reauthorization process, WIPA grantees have been told they will have to shut down at the end of June 2012 and PABSS grantees at the end of September 2012. The Committee strongly encourages SSA to use fiscal year 2012 funds, and the broad authority provided in annual appropriations language, to continue these programs. Specifically, the Committee encourages SSA to extend current WIPA and PABSS grants as soon as possible for a short period of time, up to 1 year, to prevent any disruption in services. If there are subsequent changes to the programs, through reauthorization or otherwise, this would give the Agency ample time to run a new competition and make new awards without unnecessarily creating a gap in services. In addition, the Committee recommendation for fiscal year 2013 includes $23,000,000 for WIPA and $7,000,000 for PABSS.” 

Crisis Statement: Many Social Security Disability Beneficiaries want jobs now. The current do-nothing Congress and Social Security’s top leadership are failing Social Security disability beneficiaries who work or want to work.

Crisis Background: The Commissioner of Social Security, Michael Astrue, recently announced that he plans to shut down Social Security’s vital employment support counseling services for its disability beneficiaries who make it into the workforce. Social Security has funded these mandated counseling services nationwide since 2000.

Social Security Commissioner Astrue to the US Congress March 9, 2012:

“Absent Congress’ reauthorization of these programs, we plan to stop them when the FY 2011 grants expire.”

These employment and benefits counseling services will end either June 30 or September 30, 2012 because of his decision.

Just as the economy is starting to improve, the Commissioner of Social Security is shutting down Social Security’s Work Incentives, Planning and Assistance counseling programs (WIPA) and its Protection and Advocacy for Social Security Beneficiaries counseling programs (PABSS).

Shutting these programs down means that thousands of Social Security disability beneficiaries who are planning to work, or who are working today, will have severely limited access to the correct federal and state rules and procedures for their work and benefits situation. With the shutdown, disability beneficiaries will have little to no help with complicated return to work rules when they encounter employment and SSA-related problems.

What WIPA and PABSS Grants Do: Work Incentives Planning Assistance (WIPA) grants go to local non-profits and other agencies to support outreach, education and benefits counseling services to Social Security disability beneficiaries about work incentives and services for finding, maintaining and advancing in employment, including the Social Security Ticket to Work program.

WIPA grantees inform beneficiaries of the impact that employment will have on their disability income and medical coverage, and address real fears that individuals have about going to work at the risk of losing their health care coverage.

The Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program was created in 1999 to protect the rights of beneficiaries as they plan to work and take jobs. PABSS provides information and advice about obtaining vocational rehabilitation and employment services; information and referral services to beneficiaries on work incentives; advocacy or other legal services that a beneficiary needs to secure, maintain, or regain gainful employment including investigation and remedy of complaints of employment discrimination and other civil and legal rights violations.

Despite this extensive set of duties and growing demand for services, the WIPA and PABSS programs have been flat funded at the same levels since 1999.

Rapid Response: Together, we can stop the planned national shut down of the Social Security WIPA and PABSS employment support counseling services.

We request that President Obama ask the Commissioner of Social Security, Michael J. Astrue, and the U.S. Congress to lead, collaborate, and stop the counterproductive closure of these programs at the wrong time for our growing economy.

There is opportunity as the economy improves to demonstrate that, as Americans with significant disabilities, we are part of the U.S. economic recovery plan. Use the Rapid Response Letter Template below to make you voice heard!

Key Request to President Barack Obama and to Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue:

  • “Like taxes, Social Security work rules are complicated! We request that you work harder with Congress to reauthorize the WIPA and PABSS employment support counseling programs.”
  • Contact President Barack Obama through Gene B. Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy at gsperling@who.eop.gov.
  • Contact the Commissioner of Social Security, Michael J. Astrue, by email at Michael.Astrue@ssa.gov.

Key Request to House and Senate Leaders and your Congress Members:

  • “Reauthorize the national WIPA and PABSS programs in all U.S. states and territories for five years. The 1999 Ticket to Work Act’s counseling services are foundational to help increase employment for Americans with disabilities who experience long breaks from the workforce, or who are starting work for the first time.”
  • Contact The Honorable Sam Johnson
    Chair of the US House Subcommittee on Social Security
    through his Facebook page,
    by phone at 202-225-4201,
    by fax at 202-225-1485,
    or by mail at: US House Subcommittee on Social Security
    1211 Longworth Building
    Washington, DC, 20515.
    He can be reached at his Texas District Office
    by phone at 972-470-0892
    or by mail at: 2929 North Central Expressway, Suite 240
    Richardson, Texas 75080.
  • Contact The Honorable Xavier Becerra
    Ranking Member of the US House Subcommittee on Social Security
    through his Facebook page,
    by phone at 202-225-6235,
    by fax at 202-225-2202, or by mail at: US House Subcommittee on Social Security
    1226 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington, D.C. 20515.
    He can be reached at his Los Angeles District Office
    by phone at 213-483-1425,
    by fax at 213-483-1429
    or by mail at: 1910 W Sunset Boulevard, Suite 810
    Los Angeles, CA 90026

Rapid Response Letter Template

Edit and use this template to send your personal messages to President Obama (via Gene Sperling), the Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue, and the key Members of Congress listed above.

[Date]

[Name and Title]

[Address]

Dear [Name]:

Our improving economy must be accessible to Americans with a significant disability like me.

I ask you to act now to stop the shut down, and to help continue Social Security’s Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program. Please work with Social Security and Congress to promote and ensure the program’s Congressional reauthorization.

Social Security Commissioner Astrue alerted Congress March 9, 2012 that he will shut down the WIPA Program on June 30, 2012 unless Congress acts to reauthorize the WIPA program. Commissioner Astrue added he will shut down the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program on September 30, 2012.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) sent a draft bill to the House of Representatives and the Senate early in January, 2012; no bill has been formally introduced to date. Without Congressional action, SSA plans to shut down the WIPA program, although SSA may have Administrative funds to extend the program while Congress takes action to reauthorize the program.

Social Security work rules remain complicated! Social Security disability beneficiaries need the WIPA program when they pursue their employment and economic self-sufficiency goals. WIPA Community Work Incentive Coordinators (CWICs) provide beneficiaries with accurate information to enable them to obtain employment, and reduce dependence on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cash benefits.

CWIC counseling can ease a beneficiary’s fears of unsuccessful work attempts, loss of necessary health care, and can help with other case specific issues during transitions to employment and self-sufficiency.

As an American with a disability [or as a consumer of the WIPA program],
[Insert your Personal Comments / Experiences Here].

I request you to please help stop the shutdown of the WIPA and PABSS programs. Collaborate with Representatives and Senators to approve legislation that continues these invaluable programs that support employment and add taxpayers to our workforce.

Thank you for your time, review, and consideration of this matter.

Respectfully Submitted:

[Your Name]

[Your Home Address]

[Address Line 2]

[Phone Number (Optional)]

[E-mail address (Optional)]

 

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