Career Building ACCESS Pilot Projects for SSI Eligible Youth

Adult Coaching, Counseling and Employment Support Services, or ACCESS


State Pilot Projects with the goal of overhauling the SSI Program within 12 years


Center on Economic Growth


In partnership with

National Council on Independent Living



Let Me Work

A Policy Framework of Americans with Disabilities


Employment, Economic Equity,

Social Insurance, and Public Benefits


Policy Option

Test Replacing the SSI Program with the Career Building ACCESS Program for Youth 18 to 30, with SSA as a Required Partner



Thomas Foley, Bryon R. MacDonald

With Contributions From

Anita S. Aaron, Neil Jacobson


Excerpts from


March 4, 2013


“The best form of disability advocacy is your career."

Hamza Jaka, UC Berkeley Class of 2014


ACCESS Pilot Projects Major Design Features


 Use state boundaries to design and develop pilot projects that blend existing funds from programs that work with families and young people with disabilities with new pilot project funds


 Test new treatments in 3 to 4 statewide pilot projects with a sunset date, and a limited set of new interventions


 Award enrollment at, or by age 18 into a default, alternate benefit program based on the high costs of impairments (Fremstad 2009), for youth who meet or equal the current Social Security Administration (SSA) Listing of Impairments, and without including a test for work incapacity

• Means tested low income eligibility criteria would not be linked to a testing for work incapacity

• Revised functional assessments can be included without testing for work incapacity


 Require enrollee compliance with an SSA-approved Individual’s Career Plan (ICP) to remain eligible for the benefit program, which ends on or before age 30

• The ICP is developed for SSA review by using services from an approved list of available vocational and employment support services.

• Non compliance: exit to the current SSI benefit rules and program


 Provide Life Coaching services to enrollees, real time guidance on current and available resources to support the ICP


 Test major simplification of paid work rules after enrollment

• Test the SSI federal benefit rate ($710 per month this year) remaining whole during enrollment in the pilot project no matter what the wages earned up to certain annual gross limits (for example, the current SSI 1619(b) earnings thresholds in each of the state pilot projects).

• Retention of the $710 per month stipend supports career building and the high cost of managing disability. Coupled with Life Coaching, the pilot projects model a "cash and counseling approach" that has been found successful in Medicaid services.

• Significantly relax asset building rules after enrollment in ACCESS; assets saved and acquired during enrollment are portable, held whole and harmless after enrollment in ACCESS (precedent in current CA Medicaid Buy-In law).


 Integrate and deploy online reporting, tracking, and consumer information services in the test states and counseling services


• Move away from monthly wage reporting for enrollee changes in work or other status


 Evaluative Reports for Congressional scrutiny every 3 years


 Sunset the program on or before 12 years depending on milestones met


• Sunset Model Precedent: Current SSI 1619(a) and (b) work incentives enacted in 1980; sunset clause was removed years later making the new policy permanent


 Federal Agency partners to implement the SSI youth pilot projects:


• Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

• Department of Education

• Department of Labor (DOL)

• Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

• Social Security Administration (SSA)


For the complete March 4 DISCUSSION DRAFT and these bullets, email Bryon@wid.org



If earnings thresholds are raised, fear of losing eligibility to cash benefits and healthcare are addressed, and job supports are available, the rate of unemployment and under-employment of the pilot group, youth with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 30, will be significantly lower than current rates, and the rates of those who fit the program profile who choose to remain in the SSI program.


A successful pilot project test period would show how to restructure existing, silo-ed, federal disability programs.




Policy thought leaders across the country agree that the Social Security disability programs remain the single, most pervasive deterrent to the productivity and economic well being of Americans with disabilities.


The cultural and public policy challenge of our time is that mainstream America, individuals and families, understand the following statement all too well, and present as powerless to address it in sustainable ways that improve quality of life:


“I am going out on disability.”


The prevailing culture and U.S. federal policy endures that disability separates, from the workforce and other key aspects of life.


The 2013 goal is to address and effect legislation that changes federal public policy and the stagnant unemployment rates of Americans with disabilities it supports.


These policy directions arise from experts in the field who are Americans living with the high costs of disability and long term health conditions.


After decades of research, discussion, and false starts at structural reform, a focus has emerged to replace federal disability policy on disability benefits with new programs commensurate with our expectations that we be productive, and engaged in self-managing careers backed by consistent and more efficiently run disability services.


The Policy Option One in this paper, a 12 year pilot project for SSI youth 18 to 30, is first in a series being published to set directions for redesigning and replacing the current disability benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), namely:


The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and related Title II benefits of the Social Security Act, and,


The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and related provisions in Title XVI and Title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act.


Taken together, forthcoming papers will integrate and comment on directions for pre-entitlement reform, that is, for working and non working Americans living with disability who are not on Social Security disability benefits, and post-entitlement reform, for those individuals and families who access benefits based on disability from Title II, Title XVI, and Title XIX of the Social Security Act.


Anita S. Aaron

Thomas Foley

Neil Jacobson

Bryon MacDonald

World Institute on Disability


Kelly Buckland

Employment-Social Security Subcommittee

National Council on Independent Living


For the complete March 4 DISCUSSION DRAFT and these bullets, email Bryon@wid.org



20 votes
20 up votes
0 down votes
Idea No. 249