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

An Update from the NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee

The NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee Co-Chairs have been pleased that meetings have been well attended and much interest has been shown in topics discussed and in projects being actively considered.

First and foremost, the Subcommittee has been steadily progressing with regard to its two policy initiatives to enhance employment incentives for people with disabilities of retirement age; both initiatives have been deemed “reasonable” upon scrutiny by the Social Security Administration but require Congressional action:

  1. Eliminating the termination age (65) of MBI’s within the authorization language of the Ticket-to-Work-Work Incentive Improvement Act of 1999 (TTWWIIA)

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe Subcommittee had a meeting with minority staffer for House Energy and Commerce Committee (committee of jurisdiction) and the proposal was received with support. Additional information requested was forwarded. A meeting with majority staff was agreed upon but has been delayed.

This proposal would simply align Medicaid Buy-In (MBI) authorization language within the TTWWIIA with parallel language within the Balanced Budget Act (1997), language which does not contain a termination age. More people with disabilities at/above retirement age desire to and are able to work and should not need to encounter a “spend-down” to retain vital Medicaid services (such as attendant care). They should not need to lose everything they have earned to retain such services – services needed, in turn, to be employed and socioeconomically productive. 

  1. Elimination of the archaic exception of Childhood Disability Beneficiaries/Disabled Adult Children (CDBs/DACs) being subject to employment restrictions upon reaching full/normal Social Security retirement age (67 in 2020)

The chief SSA actuary has completed his data culling and cost analysis; we have figures for a possible (minimal) offset and have an understanding of how to proceed with Congressional support. A second informational session was held with the House Social Security subcommittee of Ways and Means and discrete and realistic avenues are being explored with regard to legislative sponsorship.

This proposal would simply apply the principle of equity to a specific group of Social Security beneficiaries, while simplifying Social Security rules and relieving some burden from SSA field staff. Needless to say, socioeconomic productivity would be emphasized here also.

The Employment / Social Security Subcommittee has also been actively discussing means to discourage and eliminate sheltered workshops and subminimum wage for people with disabilities and has been following pertinent Congressional initiatives – both supportive and contrarian – closely. Although the Transitioning to Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act has not moved out of committee, alternative means of gaining momentum are being utilized.

In addition, the Subcommittee has been hearing from World Institute on Disability (WID) as it progresses in moving its employment curriculum for transition age youth forward. In lieu of CareerACCESS, WID’s employment curriculum has been adopted by several states and is being actively pursued at present by the State of Vermont. Although the CareerACCESS project as originally anticipated has been slowed by funding issues, the employment curriculum initiative proceeds constructively. Moreover, the potential of a pilot state(s) is still being explored with regard to programmatic aspects (e.g. Career Coaches) of the CareerACCESS project.

The Subcommittee has been heartened by reports from the State of Wisconsin that its legislative attempts to eliminate “indirect” employment disincentives have been successful. That is, allowing those people with disabilities who have been beneficiaries of MBIs to, upon actual and complete retirement, retain their earnings (e.g. pension assets) and their Medicaid benefits.

In its ongoing vigilance, the Subcommittee has been supporting renewed impetus to promote raising the age of eligibility (to 46) for establishing ABLE Act accounts. The National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) has taken the lead in this effort.

Lastly, the Subcommittee has constructively discussed the potentially negative repercussions of mandated work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries. Although, technically, people with disabilities would be exempt from such requirements, many people with disabilities do not receive SSDI or SSI and would be subject to burdensome bureaucratic navigation to document disability. This would discourage many and result in a significant number of people with disabilities losing vital Medicaid. Ironically, because many need such services as personal care assistants to work, the net result could indeed be many people with disabilities ceasing employment.

The NCIL Employment / Social Security Subcommittee welcomes new members and encourages further participation as it proceeds with its charge.