In 2014, PolicyWorks partnered and collaborated with the World Institute on Disability (WID) and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) to create and advocate for the CareerACCESS pilot and policy initiative.
CareerACCESS is the policy framework developed as a policy initiative to increase the employment rates for young adults with disabilities now eligible for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. SSI is a means-tested benefits program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The CareerACCESS goal is to reform current SSI policies and programs and improve economic outcomes for individuals with disabilities who, without such reform, face a lifetime of poverty and dependence on federal benefits.
The National Policy Question
How can more young adults with disabilities gain access to their careers, and so change the stagnant employment rates of Americans with disabilities?
- SSI’s eligibility rules do not require an individual with a disability to prove an incapacity to work,
- Earnings thresholds increase to offset the high cost of managing disability,
- Fear of jeopardizing eligibility for health care and government cash benefits is removed, and
- Job support services are readily available,
The employment rates of young adults with disabilities will increase significantly.
Current SSI rules leave recipients little ability to build assets, resulting in limited success moving from poverty into competitive, integrated jobs and careers. Young adults with disabilities 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 an extremely challenging job market.
Recognizing that current SSI eligibility rules foster dependence through systemic barriers to employment and independence, a paradigm shift is needed to increase the employment rates for individuals with disabilities.
A Bold New Approach
To optimize career success, employment supports and coaching are available because work is assumed instead of discouraged.
- Realigns new and existing supports from across federal agencies to empower more young adults to build careers at competitive wages in the community;
- Simplifies eligibility and reporting requirements for young adults with disabilities seeking career employment as a path to independent living; and,
- Supports young adults through career coaching, benefits planning, financial counseling, and employment support services.
Participants will receive a CareerACCESS cash stipend to offset the cost of managing a disability. Participants will also have access to health care, personal assistance services, and be able to keep assets acquired. In CareerACCESS, young adults will access these services and supports through an individualized career plan.
CareerACCESS Policy Framework and Design
CareerACCESS is a community driven set of reforms to the Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) to provide an alternative benefits program for young adults with disabilities, ages 18-30.
The “ACCESS” in CareerACCESS stands for Adult Coaching, Counseling and Employment Support Services (ACCESS). The participant manages their Individualized Career Plan (ICP) to coordinate and deliver services. The ICP doubles as the compliance and communication tool for the program to track details of a participant’s career progress.
The CareerACCESS pilot projects essential features and outcomes are:
1. Establish alternative eligibility entrance requirements eliminating tests for work incapacity.
2. Coordinate new and existing supports to serve young adults with disabilities in compliance with an Individual Career Plan (ICP) that meets federal requirements.
3. Adapt a “cash and counseling” approach, similar to successful Medicaid models, to provide career coaching and other services to participants.
4. Test major simplification of paid work rules to allow project participants to have use of the federal SSI stipend (in 2016, $733 for an individual, $1100 for a couple) to offset expenses and the high costs of managing disability while building careers
5. Streamline income reporting with an annual process similar to filing taxes.
6. Allow participants to benefit from work by eliminating all asset building rules for participants; assets saved and acquired while enrolled in CareerACCESS are held harmless after leaving the program and when applying for other means tested benefits.
7. Change the overall SSI program rules over time for all SSI young adults based on the findings and results of the pilot projects.
The design elements for CareerACCESS continue to evolve. The current framework is a compilation of input provided by subject matter experts, policy advocates, and state agency leaders from across the disability community. We seek continued engagement of these experts and advocates to more fully develop the details of the CareerACCESS pilot initiative.
For more information on CareerACCESS policy framework and pilot initiative please review: