AIDS Survival Project, Outreach and AID Atlanta collaborated to present "Change is Good!" a presentation by Bruce Garner and Coleman Wicks of the Social Security Administration. To accommodate the varied schedules of those attending, this forum was offered both on Tuesday evening, May 25th and the morning of Wednesday, May 26th.
Bruce Garner began by explaining some of the significant changes that should come to fruition because of the passage of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999.
Below are some of the questions and answers about both programs:
I. The Ticket to Work Program
- What is the Ticket to Work Program?
The Ticket Program is something new in SSA. The program will offer SSA disability beneficiaries greater choice in obtaining the services needed to help them go to work.
- When will the Ticket Program begin?
Before they officially begin this major new program, SSA will take one year to make sure that it will operate as well as possible. Some beneficiaries will begin to receive Tickets early in 2001.
- Will the Ticket Program start everywhere at the same time?
No. During the first year of operation, which will begin January 2001, the program will be available only in certain States. In the next couple of years, SSA will expand the program to other parts of the country. The program will be operating in the entire country by January 1. 2004. So, people will receive their Tickets at different times.
- How will I know where the Ticket Program is available?
SSA will announce their plans in many different places where people who receive Social Security disability benefits get information about SSA, including Social Security's Internet web site, www.ssa.gov.
- What will a Ticket look like?
The Ticket will be a paper document that will have some personal information and some general information about the Ticket Program.
- How will I get my Ticket?
When the program begins in January 2001, SSA will be working with an organization the law calls a Program Manager. The Program Manager, whom SSA has not yet selected, will help us to manage the Ticket program. The Program Manager will help them send the Ticket in the mail with a letter explaining the program.
- Where would I take my Ticket to get services?
You will take your Ticket to what the law calls an Employment Network. The Employment Networks will be private organizations or public agencies that have agreed to work with Social Security to provide services under this program.
- How will I find out about the Employment Networks?
The Program Manager will send you a list of the approved Employment Networks in your area when SSA sends you your Ticket. Also, some Employment Networks may contact you to offer their services. This information will also be available on SSA's web site (www.ssa.gov) and in other places.
- How will I choose an Employment Network?
You can contact any Employment Network in your area to see if it is the right one for you. Both you and the Employment Network have to agree to work together.
- Can I change Employment Networks?
Yes. You can stop working with one Employment Network and begin working with another one. Before you make this decision, however, you should make sure you fully understand how the Employment Network plans to help you to work.
- How can I get more information about the Ticket program now?
Before the program begins in January 2001, you can contact Social Security: toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. SSA will have pamphlets and other written material available at local Social Security offices.
Information about the Ticket Program will also be available from many other private and government organizations that help people with disabilities. If you have access to the Internet, you can get information from their special web site, www.ssa.gov/work.
Beginning in January 2001, you will be able to contact the Program Manager. SSA will announce their toll-free number, and the date they are available to answer questions.
- If I get a Ticket, do I have to use it?
No. The Ticket Program is voluntary.
II. Expanded Availability of Health Care Services
- Does the new law include changes in health care coverage?
Yes. Starting October 1, 2001, the law extends Medicare Part A (Hospital) premium-free coverage for four and one-half years beyond the current limit for disability beneficiaries who work.
- What about Medicaid?
The law includes several important changes to Medicaid. For example, it gives States the option of providing Medicaid coverage to more people ages 16-64 with disabilities who work.
III. Removal of Work Disincentives
- If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my disability benefits?
No. The new law has not changed our work incentives rules. For more information about SSA work incentives you should either call their toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213, contact your Social Security office, or visit their web site at www.ssa.gov/work.
- If my disability benefits stop because I go back to work, will I have to file a new application if I can't work anymore?
Starting January 1, 2001, if your benefits have ended because of work, you can request that SSA start your benefits again without having to file a new application. There are some important conditions: you have to be unable to work because of your medical condition. The medical condition must be the same as or related to the condition you had when SSA first decided that you should receive disability benefits. You have to file your request to start you benefits again within 60 months of the date you were last entitled to benefits.
- Will I have to wait for SSA to make a new medical decision before I can receive benefits?
No. SSA will make a new medical decision, but while they are making the decision, you can receive up to six months of temporary benefits.
- If SSA decides that they are unable to start my benefits again, will I have to pay back the temporary benefits?
- Will you still review my medical condition?
Starting January 1, 2001, SSA will not review the medical condition of a person receiving disability benefits if that person is using a Ticket.
Starting January 1, 2002, under certain conditions, SSA will not review the medical condition of beneficiaries who have received Social Security Disability Insurance benefits for at least 24 months. SSA will provide more information about medical reviews in the future.
These are significant enhancements in the way SSA approaches return to work issues. One such change mentioned by Coleman was that SSA must now prove an individual is NOT disabled when it comes to reinstatement of benefits. There is now a five-year period for reinstatement with six months provisional benefits. This less stringent standard should make people more comfortable with attempting to see if they can return to work.
Hopefully, the State of Georgia will choose to provide Medicaid coverage to more people ages 16-64 with disabilities who want to work to pay for their medications. The removal of this major barrier for those who want to start their own business or work for smaller companies is essential for many to utilize this program. The money invested in allowing these individuals to "buy-in" to Medicaid should encourage more of those people collecting SSI and SSDI to not only return to the work force, but to become tax payers again. As this issue comes before the Georgia Legislature, Survival News will keep you informed as to how you can help see this legislation passes.