Update of the Work Incentives Advisory Group
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).
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 SSI Coalition
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.
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.
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.
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 Sue Augustus at the SSI Coalition.