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

Calling All Youth & Disability Employment Advocates: Your Feedback Requested on the CareerACCESS Public Policy Initiative

A person with a disability working in an officeAny of us can acquire a disability at any time, and all of us have a stake in making equal employment opportunity the rule rather than the exception. – Senator Tom Harkin (2012)

Get involved!

The NCIL Board of Directors has officially endorsed the CareerACCESS policy initiative. The California State Council on Developmental Disabilities has written both Houses of Congress requesting that these pilot projects be funded and implemented.

  • As a youth with a disability, help drive the CareerACCESS discussion by reviewing the CareerACCESS Summary below and sending us feedback: Will this work? What’s missing that is essential to making it work?

Send your comments and questions to

CareerACCESS: Summary of Main Features

Adult Coaching, Counseling, and Employment Support Services, or CareerACCESS

The Challenge

Since 1956, young people with disabilities must prove their inability to work to be eligible for Social Security disability programs. In particular, SSI (Supplemental Security Income) recipients are relegated to lives of poverty to remain eligible for cash benefits and access to health care. Current SSI rules leave recipients no ability to build assets, resulting in little success moving from poverty into self-sustaining jobs and careers. Youth with disabilities who are exploring work must balance their need for financial assistance, health care, personal attendant care and accommodation requirements while overcoming low cultural expectations, lack of employment experience and challenging job markets.

The Social Security disability rolls grow annually while the employment rates of people with disabilities stay the same.

We Can Meet This Challenge.

The goal of the 12 year CareerACCESS pilot projects is to markedly increase employment rates for American youth with disabilities and provide more effective alternatives to current SSI rules.

This proposed legislative framework, using and building on existing, innovative practices, is designed to reverse these trends and increase employment success for American youth with disabilities. Piloted in up to 5 states, CareerACCESS will serve youth who are otherwise eligible for SSI, and eliminate the requirement for applicants to prove an inability to work. Youth with disabilities will be required to explore career options and develop a personal plan to achieve their goals. 

The CareerACCESS initiative provides youth up to age 30 with life coaching, benefit/asset building counseling, and employment support services, while maintaining SSI cash benefits, health care, and encouraging asset building throughout this pivotal life transition period.

Pilot Project Design

  • Eligibility – Establish new eligibility entrance requirements eliminating tests for work incapacity. Applicants with a disability under the age of 28, who meet the current SSI income and resource rules, are auto-enrolled in an alternate benefit program. Eligible applicants must meet or equal the current Social Security Listing of Impairments, excluding the test for work incapacity.
  • Supports – Design of a mix of new and existing supports, with blended and braided funding from DOE, HHS, DOL, and SSA, to serve youth with disabilities in compliance with an Individual Career Plan (ICP) that meets federal requirements. The ICP will be reviewed and updated annually by all affected parties. This allows youth to develop their career through an alternative to the current SSI benefits program. If a participant becomes non-compliant for any reason, they may exit to the traditional SSI program.
  • Cash and Counseling – Implement a “cash and counseling” approach, similar to successful Medicaid models, to provide life coaching services to enrollees and their families. Services include: counseling and guidance on navigating systems, benefits planning, asset development, health care access, as well as career planning and coaching.
  • Simplification – Test major simplification of SSI earning/work rules to include allowing CareerACCESS project participants to keep their full federal SSI stipend ($710 for an individual, $1066 for a couple) until gross earnings exceed preset limits in the current 1619(a) and (b) rules (use CT or highest state earnings threshold), to offset expenses and the high costs of managing disability. Allow participants to benefit from work by eliminating asset building limitations, so that assets saved and acquired are held harmless. Asset development is key to stabilizing financial independence. Establish enrollee-friendly, online wage reporting, tracking, and information services.
  • Modify as Needed – Modify the SSI program rules over time for all SSI youth based on the pilot project findings and outcomes. Sunset the program on or before 12 years, depending on objectives met.

Summary by: World Institute on Disability (WID), National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), and PolicyWorks. Find more information and details under Spotlight at


  1. Mark J Greene says

    I would look at the amounts that you allow CareerACCESS listed under “Simplification”. Take in to account that many people need ways to get to work and might be able to use a car. If they have a vehicle then then amount they should be allowed access to should be greater so that they can have “emergency funds” available to pay for auto repairs/rental/replacement. This same holds true if persons also get into home ownership.

  2. I like this idea. It removes stress that SSI can put upon those with disabilities.

  3. We have launched a new website about this initiative! Please feel free to check it out for more information about CareerACCESS ( and join our Facebook page ( We need all of your support to make this initiative a reality! Feel free to email me feedback or questions-

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