Update of the Work Incentives Advisory Group

The Regional Work Incentives Advisory Group (WIAG), created by SSA Region V Commissioner James Martin to identify and reduce problems at SSA offices in providing services to people with disabilities who want to work, has been meeting on a quarterly basis. Region V includes the states of Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin. The group is composed of advocates and SSA staff from all six states, as well as representatives from the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) (which administers the Medicaid program) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The first issue identified by the WIAG was the 1619 Medicaid program. The 1619 Medicaid program allows SSI beneficiaries to receive free Medicaid (no spenddown) when they return to work. It was undisputed that many SSI beneficiaries do not receive 1619 Medicaid because of problems at both the local SSA offices and the local Medicaid offices (in Illinois, this would be IDHS). We recommended that both SSA and the Medicaid agencies meet to discuss ways to better communicate information between the two agencies, and those meetings have taken place. In addition, the Health & Disability Advocates have developed a fact sheet on 1619 Medicaid (available on our website) to help consumers as well as SSA employees and IDHS employees. HCFA has also agreed to monitor the states’ 1619 Medicaid rolls.

The second major set of issues identified by WIAG were service delivery problems at the local SSA offices, specifically around return to work. WIAG recommended, and Regional Commissioner Martin agreed, that the local SSA field offices should devote more attention to return to work issues. As a result of our recommendations, more SSA employees will be trained on work incentives, and, importantly, there will be better tracking of earnings reporting when a consumer reports work to a local office. These changes will be especially helpful when the new Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach counselors are working with individual consumers.

Another WIAG accomplishment was national change in policy on transportation and Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs). SSA has decided that a consumer may use disability related transportation expenses as IRWEs even when public transportation is not available. This is a major change in policy.

The WIAG is now focused on the Ticket to Work implementation, and will provide comment on the regulations as they are issued.

If you have any questions, or suggestions for WIAG issues, please contact the Health & Disability Advocates at 312-223-9600.