By Andy Arias
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By Andy Arias
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CareerACCESS is a career-building alternative to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for young adults with disabilities, ages 18-30.
It is a community-driven proposed program to reform the current Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) rules so that young adults with disabilities can work and achieve their full potential without risking losing their disability benefits. CareerACCESS will reform the SSI program by providing an alternative benefits program for young adults with disabilities, ages 18-30. This program would be piloted in up to 5 states with services and supports for career-building youth to save their assets and keep their disability benefits while they build their careers. The program will be driven by an Individualized Career Plan (ICP) that will include coaching, counseling and employment support services.
The goal is independence through employment.
To date, this has been a very productive year for CareerACCESS and we have been able to accomplish many of the goals we set. By meeting with different agencies and organizations throughout the year, CareerACCESS has been able to partner up with 10 new agencies and educate 3 new agencies active in economic development as to why they should include people with disabilities in their central mission. Other than agencies and policy makers, the CareerACCESS team has worked vigorously to reach more young adults with disabilities by holding webinars, presenting at conferences, and utilizing social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Garnering support for CareerACCESS, especially from young adults with disabilities has been a top priority for CareerACCESS this year. The team was able to expand by including 5 young adults with disabilities working to advocate for the initiative. These young adults took the lead in organizing and participating in events to spread the word and educate people about CareerACCESS. One of the highlights of the year was the CareerACCESS trip to Washington, D.C., in July, in conjunction with the “ADA at 25” activities at the NCIL Annual Conference.
During the 10 days in DC, CareerACCESS members participated in several meetings and evens that included 3 workshops centering on CareerACCESS, multiple meetings with Members of Congress and their staff, many meetings with disability advocates and advocacy agencies, a meeting with 3 Community Economic Development agencies and speaking at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s SSDI Solutions Initiative Conference. The dialog at these meetings presented evidence of a strong consensus to fully develop and pilot CareerACCESS.
Young adults with disabilities proved to be the movers and shakers for CareerACCESS.
Emily Ladau, Justin Harford, Andy Arias and Daniel Mellenthin, all young adults, have been active members of the CareerACCESS Core Team. Justin moderated the panel at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) conference on July 27th, where he was joined by Andy, Daniel and an activist named Angel Miles. Additionally, all four young adults spoke on the panel during the National Council on Disability’s (NCD) Congressional Hearing on July 28th. Justin, Daniel, and Andy also spoke on the panel held on July 31st for representatives from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies. Emily assisted in coordinating speakers for both the NCIL panel and Congressional Hearing and kept social media updated on our progress. Daniel also did a great job recruiting other young adults with disabilities to be interested in and advocate for CareerACCESS.
Image: CareerACCESS young adult activists at a Congressional Briefing held by the National Council on Disability on July 28, 2015 about “Re-imagining the Social Security System for the 21st Century.” The screen behind them reads, “I think I’m most offended by the fact that I’m in a constant position to constantly prove I’m disabled.” [Photo Credit: Lawrence Carter-Long]
CareerACCESS also participated in the National Council on Disability’s (NCD) Congressional Hearing. Jack Mills from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Bob Friedman and David Newville from The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) and Zach Morrow from National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) joined the team at the NCD Congressional Hearing. They spoke afterwards about working together to move this agenda forward and possible funding opportunities for this initiative.
The CareerACCESS team met with staff and members of the Social Security Advisory Board. The young adults on the team told their stories with an emphasis on how SSI needs to be reformed, advocating for the piloting and implementation of CareerACCESS. As a success of our work in DC, the CareerACCESS team has been asked to come back and speak to the Advisory Committee on Competitive Employment.
CareerACCESS has also been active in reaching out to states interested in piloting CareerACCESS, and engaging policy makers and their staff who are members of committees with jurisdiction over Social Security and Health, Education and/or Labor. Bryon MacDonald, a CareerACCESS team member, has been in talks with the NCIL member delegation and other stakeholders in Michigan. The NCIL member delegation from Michigan met with a bipartisan mix totaling 13 of their 16 Member Congressional delegation and/or their staff in D.C., informing them about CareerACCESS and widespread interest in Michigan to become a pilot project state. Bryon was an invited participant when the Michigan NCIL members presented CareerACCESS to staff for House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI). Bryon, Amina Kruck and April Reed met with Representative Tom Reed (R-NY) and his staff; the Congressman expressed a keen interest in CareerACCESS design and its objectives. Rosemary Lahasky, staff to the Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, met with a cross section of CareerACCESS representatives, asking key questions about its design and future planning. This House Subcommittee has jurisdiction over the SSI program. She stated that she would follow up and provide more background on the SSI Section 1110 waiver authority and how it might apply to CareerACCESS rule changes related to SSI. The CareerACCESS representatives met at length with Ted McCann and Amy Shuart, who staff current leadership of the Social Security Subcommittee, House Ways and Means Committee. They also told us about Social Impact Bonds as a possible way to fund pilots.
The CareerACCESS Core Team briefed Maura Corrigan at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on CareerACCESS features and the Michigan interest in being a pilot project state. Maura is the former Michigan Department of Health Services (DHS) Director, now visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, with ties to senior officials in Michigan state government.
In addition, via NCIL member networking and other outreach across the country since the NCIL Conference in July, disability advocates and government officials in TN, NE, MN, VT, CA, and MA have expressed interest in learning more about being a CareerACCESS pilot project state. Focused outreach on these developments is in the works or being planned.
Overall Goal: Plan and organize activities that will enable CareerACCESS to be piloted in at least 1 state by mid-2017.