Frequently Asked Questions

Why CareerACCESS? Aren’t there enough services for young adults with disabilities?

The number of young adults with significant disabilities who build good careers remains far below that of their peers who do not have a disability. Government spends large sums assisting young adults with disabilities find employment. Many of these programs are silo-ed, complicated, and poorly understood by youth and their families.

CareerACCESS would be piloted in a few states to test its features and services. CareerACCESS will combine employment support services with more straightforward work rules than the ones used in the current Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Combining and integrating vocational services with financial incentives has proven successful in some welfare to work projects. Combining these provisions is seen as essential for improving economic equity for this population. Young adults with disabilities who enroll in CareerACCESS will be required to explore career options and develop a personal plan to achieve their goals. The CareerACCESS initiative provides young adults up to age 30 with career coaching, benefit/asset building counseling, and employment support services, while maintaining SSI cash benefits, health care, and encouraging asset building.

What’s the next big step for CareerACCESS?

The group working on CareerACCESS are seeking public funding for a CareerACCESS feasibility study that can develop the services, features, and costs for the pilot projects. This disability community group is from the World Institute on Disability (WID), PolicyWorks, and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL). The group meets regularly with invited experts in these fields who provide guidance and input.  You can help too!

How do people qualify for SSI now?

The current SSI application and eligibility rules are complex. There are volumes of information that experts must understand to properly advise people regarding these rules.  If you are 18 or older and apply for SSI today, it is necessary to:

  1. Prove that you are incapable of working by showing that your earnings are less than $1070 per month, a figure called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) by Social Security.
  2. Prove that you have one or more disabilities that are included in what Social Security calls the Blue Book, or Listing of Impairments
  3. Prove that your assets do not exceed $2000 ($3000 for a couple)

Does SGA apply to people who are blind who are on SSI?

According to the SSA website,  SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind disabled applies to Social Security and SSI benefits. The formula for determining the SGA amount for the blind is set by law and is applicable only if a cost-of-living increase becomes effective for December of the year in which a determination of the SGA amount would ordinarily be made. Because there is a cost-of-living increase for December 2013, the formula can be applied. The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2014 is $1800.

How will an individual qualify for CareerACCESS?

As soon as a CareerACCESS pilot starts in a state, all SSI participants in that state who are between the ages of 18 and 28[1] will automatically be eligible for CareerACCESS. In states piloting CareerACCESS, people who are applying for SSI who are between the ages of 18 and 28 will still need to meet rules similar to the current SSI rules, except the applicant will not be required to prove they are incapable of working.

To remain on CareerACCESS, participants must annually show they are between the ages of 18 and 30, prove that they still have one or more disabilities that are included in the Social Security Blue Book, and prove that their income is less than the maximum annual earnings limit in SSI’s 1619 (a) and (b) rules.

What is 1619(a) and (b)?

SSI 1619 rules are rules that enable SSI recipients who have earned income to keep their Medicaid health coverage to manage their disability and their health.

What is the highest current, annual earnings limit using 1619(a) and (b) rules?

Social Security assigns each state its own SSI 1619 annual earnings threshold to retain Medicaid and SSI eligibility even when the recipient receives no SSI cash benefit.

SSI recipients in Connecticut can work and keep SSI eligibility with earnings upto $68,340 per year. Alaska is second at $56,786 gross earnings per year. Most states have an earnings threshold in the $30K to $40K per year range. SSI recipients with these earnings levels receive no cash benefits while earning this kind of income; they continue to receive Medicaid services.

If they lose their job, they can regain access to SSI cash benefits without a new application as long as the person remains disabled.

How many individuals are on SSI?

In 2010, about 1.2 million youth below age 18 were receiving SSI benefits, 15.7% of all SSI recipients. About 4.6 million recipients were between the ages of 18 and 64 in 2010, 58.5% of all SSI recipients. (Social Security data)

How many SSI recipients have successful careers?

Of the numbers on SSI today, about 300,000 have earned income sometime during the year and at same time receive a partial and reduced SSI check; about 70,000 of these workers remain eligible for SSI and Medicaid but receive no SSI cash check due to their earnings and the SSI 1619 rules.

CareerACCESS has an Individualized Career Plan (ICP)? What is this?

Each CareerACCESS participant must develop and work on their Individualized Career Plan (ICP), a personal plan to achieve their goals, with assistance from federally approved agencies and organizations. CareerACCESS has compliance rules with regular reviews for continued eligibility and enrollment. To remain eligible, the CareerACCESS program participant builds and works on a career plan to self-manage and modify up to age 30, with case coordination and coaching help available, when needed and requested, from an assigned counselor for the individual and the family as appropriate. Training, education, and paid work are core activities to be included in the ICP.

What happens if an ICP is not followed? 

Non compliance has outcomes. The CareerACCESS participant may need to enroll in the current SSI program for a variety of non compliance reasons.  Non compliance to the CareerACCESS rules in itself would not  bar a CareerACCESS participant from eligibility for the current SSI program.

CareerACCESS has “career coaching” services. What’s this? 

A Career Coach is a person who advises clients on how to solve their problems, plan ahead, and reach their career goals.  Career coaching services are used in the business world and in human services. Career coaching works to enable participants to build, shape and change their Individualized Career Plan (ICP) in timely and efficient ways. Career coaching can include mentoring, financial planning, vocational and educational assessment and planning, marketing and marketing research.

What happens when a CareerACCESS participant turns 30? 

Successful CareerACCESS pilot projects are going to influence and perhaps change how future benefit programming works and how they best support employment and careers. The group working on CareerACCESS recognizes that many SSI recipients will need access to unique services throughout their lives not provided by the private sector. The feasibility study we seek would work hard to make sure the careers of young adults with disabilities are supported after leaving CareerACCESS. At a minimum, current approaches include keeping any assets saved while in CareerACCESS and being able to build and keep more assets after age 30, continued access to Medicaid and its full scope of services similar to SSI’s 1619 rules and state Medicaid Buy-In rules today. Some state Medicaid Buy-In programs offer rich examples for future planning of a mix of incentives and services that sustain successful careers allowing for a wide range of salaries, earning levels, and asset building tools.

How can I help CareerACCESS?

The pilot project’s design process is looking closely at how to support successful career outcomes. YOUR input is essential to help with designing these features. The CareerACCESS website (careeraccess.org), Facebook Page (https://facebook.com/ourcareeraccess) and Twitter Page (https://twitter.com/ourcareeraccess) are now up! Please visit these sites and give us your feedback.

Write to us with your experience and advice at Paul@wid.org or Anita@wid.org.


[1] Although CareerACCESS is for young adults with disabilities ages 18 through 30, the cutoff age for starting CareerACCESS is 28. This ensures participants have time to receive services  and meet their career goals.


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