Thanks for joining us today as part of the ADA Distance Learning Series. Today we are talking about the ABCs of the Workforce Investment Act and the Work Incentives Improvement Act Joining us Tom Dillisio from the U.S. Department of Labor and Ken McGill, from the Social Security Administration Hi Tom and Ken
I will definitely be the first one to admit that between these two pieces of legislation it is all Greek to me. So we are thrilled to have Tom and Ken joining us today to kind of lay some of the foundation for us, spelling out some of the regulation and identifying resources for more information on both pieces of legislation. For those of you that are interested in following along with the captioning that is currently being done on the Great Lakes web site at www.adagreatlakes.org And we also have a number of resource materials on the website. One that you might want to follow along with as Tom is speaking, he has a slide presentation here on the Workforce Investment Act and there is a second piece of reference material from the Social Security Administration, Questions and Answers on the Ticket to Work program. So I''m going to turn it over to you to start with, Tom. Tom is the program specialist in the Office of Workforce Services, the Division of Career Transition Assistance with the U.S. Department of Labor in the Employment Training Administration. He is in Region 5, out of Chicago. Tom was a member of the national one stop team and is the Region 5 One Stop Coordinator and Disability Coordinator. Tom has also been a member of the national workgroup that developed the cost allocation technical assistance guide and has conducted trainings around the country on this particular subject. Tom, we are thrilled to have you with us. Just to layout and give people kind of a reference of what we are going to do. I''m going to ask you to speak briefly on the Workforce Investment Act. Then we will open it up to questions on that piece of legislation. Then we will transition to Ken, so he can talk on the Work Incentives Improvement Act and then we will open it up for questions at the end there as well.
Thank you, thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. It is great to be here and have the opportunity to talk to you. It is the first time I have done a presentation in this format. On the phone and not facing an audience, it is a little different here. So I will be talking in a room so I look forward to talking to you about the Workforce Investment Act and hopefully answer your questions and provide information on a variety of things. I''m going to give you a brief oversight of the Workforce Investment Act first. And then I''m going to go through and talk about what some of our states are doing. And what some of the early implementers have done regarding implementing WIA. If you are following my slides, my second slide I took out of a newspaper article, it says "collaborate or die," its my personal thing I put in there regarding one of the major goal of WIA-trying to bring partners together to try to build a 21st century workforce system. Regarding all partners, we can all be involved from all levels, the federal level, state level partners, local level partners, CBOs, all the organizations involved in workforce investment type systems and workforce investment activities. There is a role for everybody in this system. So that is really one of the overall goals for WIA. But I want to give you a little background about where WIA came from and what we have done prior to that to give you a flavor of how we have gotten this far. We hear a lot about one stop and one stop career centers, and one stop systems, that came about in 1994 as a voluntary type system that we tried to develop and move our states in that direction. What that meant is we provided money to our states, we appropriated $850 million over a five-year period to our states. The grants range from $5 - 6 million up to $15 million over a three-year period to get states to start transitioning their services and activities and to start implementing with one stop type systems. We also provided a one time big increase in information technology and systems to develop labor market information to our states to really upgrade those systems of gathering labor market information and occupational information and making it available to the customer. We are happy to say in Region 5 which is now a ten state configuration, and that is Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri , Kansas, Iowa we have 615 one stop centers. Those are physical locations in each of the workforce investment areas in our region. Across the country I believe there are over 2,000 one stop centers now. We are trying to put those on-line so customers know where they are and where they can get services and where our activities are provided. Additionally just to give you an idea of the requirements of WIA....so that took us to where we are now. WIA came about in 1999, when it was passed. That sort of mandated some of the systems that were initially voluntary. It mandated the partners that would be involved in a one stop, it mandated that there be one physical center and so forth. I will talk about that now more specifically. What it basically said is it took all of our programs as well as some other workforce programs and mandated those to begin delivering their services in our one stop center. And just to go real briefly through those programs, we created three funding streams into the Department of Labor: an adult funding stream, a youth funding stream, and dislocated workers funding stream. We took our Wagner Peyser which is known as our job service out at the state level, adult education and literacy, we took a rehabilitation services administration and Title I of the Rehab Act services, welfare to work program under SSA, older workers program, Carl Perkins which is a vocational education, trade assistance program, NAFTA, veteran''s program, community service block grant, HUD-Urban and development employment and training programs and unemployment insurance and we put those all under a one stop to deliver their services. Our goal is to create a seamless system to the customers. Things that we like as a customer, when we are out in the public sector, we want services in one area or to be able to access all the available information as easily and simply as possible. WIA also required that there be one comprehensive center in each workforce area at a minimum. Now that also allows you can have more than one and you can have affiliated sites but at a minimum one physical location that would act as a gateway to our services. Also, those were required partners. We also have in the legislation some other partners that can be involved in a one stop. Those are the TANIF program under SSA, the food stamp program, the National Community Services Act, which is Americorp , and any other federal, state, or local program including housing and transportation programs that are related to workforce development. Our goal is to bring all these workforce programs under one location and have linkages to other centers as well as other programs. We have also defined and required who a partner can be. Because there is a lot of different levels and different organizations and we have said it has to be the agency that actually carries out the program and activities. It is the grant recipient or administrative entity. And that is sort of the requirement of when you are dealing with state programs that may not have sort of local jurisdiction or their contracts and so forth that are different at each agency. So we sort of tried to level that playing field to define what agency are we talking about or what program are we talking about. It does not include service providers or sub-recipient or contractors. It also includes national programs and this would be similar to job corps, our native American programs, our my grant seasonal farm workers program which are carried directly from Washington and contracted out with national contractors at the state level. So that tells you who is in the one stop center. What services do you receive at the one stop center? We have taken this and we have identified this in our legislation. We have three levels of services: core, intensive, and training services. We have said that any core services applicable to any of these programs and partners, they would be delivered at the one stop center. We have defined what those what are core services. But just to back up a little bit, we have also said these one stop centers would provide all core services. We would have an MOU which is a memorandum of understanding, with the local board, that those funds are depending on what activities and programs are delivered, they are defined at the local level by the local board. That MOU would spell out how the one stop center will operate, the type of services provided and the level of service. And those partners will have representation on the local boards to determine what is needed in that local community. So when we are talking about core services, at a minimum, it is eligibility for our programs, it is out reach, intake, profiling, and any orientation. It is an initial assessment of skills and abilities. It is job search and placement assistance. It is employment statistics. It is job vacancy listings and searching for jobs on our job bank. Career information, program performance information of training providers, a listing of what we call the state training provider list of where you can obtain training and eligibility for youth services. Also initial claims for unemployment insurance. Financial aid information and support of services information for child care, transportation, housing, and so on, as well as referrals to other programs. So what we are saying is partners and agencies that provide those type of services, they will be considered core and they would be available at every one stop center so that a customer coming in would have this variety of free to the customer, of these services at a minimum available. There is no eligibility or requirement. Everybody is provided with this. These are at each of the physical locations. Also, who will provide these services needs to be worked out. That becomes an issue. Does that mean staff from all these programs need to be at one stop? That is a decision determined by the local board and working with their state. We say also that you can provide these services either by having individuals staffed at the center. You can do it electronically or you can do it through a contract to have somebody provide it for you. But you must provide these services at a minimum at the center. As well you are required to provide access to other programs and activities. So this becomes a gateway for an individual accessing our services coming into our locations and either obtaining information at our centers or possibly being referred to other providers or organizations that provide a service that they are looking for. All this is spelled out again in what we call our memorandum of understanding. There are other ways we provide services. One thing we did with one stop was a big investment in technology. We have four major web sites that we call America''s Career Kit. They are free of charge to everybody as a service from us. One is called the service locator, another is called America''s job bank, America''s career information network and America ''s learning exchange. You can find them all at www.ajb.org and they are all interconnected. So that if you go on any of the four that I have mentioned you can get back to any of the other ones. That is meant to provide services in a wide variety of ways. It is meant to provide a complete loop for a job seeker of coming in, they can develop their resume and post it on the job bank so that employers can search and look for people that have skills. They can search for jobs in any city or state in the country or look nationally and apply for those jobs. They can look at career information needed to work in that job and also under the labor-what we call ALX, they can find in that local area where they can find training to qualify for that job. So it creates a complete loop for a individual of looking for a job, what is needed in that job, what kind of career information, the pay grades. Is it a growing field? A declining industry? Then where they would obtain information. Who is hiring in that field? What jobs are available and so on. They have all been redesigned, they are accessible web sites, so I would ask all of you to look and use them. You can post your job there, you can also screen candidates and employers are using it more and more. We have over 1.5 million jobs posted on the job bank and over 500,000 resumes. We also have a new site which is if service locator, similar to Map Quest, where any person can enter a zip code and within five miles, ten miles they can find where the nearest one stop center is as well as where services are available. This web site is new, so it is just being populated now. But I think the goal down the road, hopefully within the year is to have not only our information but other agencies and other providers and community organizations to post their information on there, manage it themselves so any customer can go in and find where they can get child care, transportation, one stop centers or other offices that would take them. It will draw a map, give them directions and that kind of thing. A real nice site. Another big initiative in Department of Labor under WIA is also our disability initiative. And we have a web site for that. It is www.wdsc.org/disability and that has a lot of our grant information on there that we have awarded grants under. Our goal is a real big emphasis to provide more access, physical and program access to our programs and our centers and our web sites. So we are redesigning a lot of stuff. We have issued grants to several states to begin looking at our one stop centers, but sure they are accessible both from a program perspective as well as a physical perspective. I will talk a little bit more about that toward the end. Going back to WIA, one of the big challenges we have had is working with building partnerships and so forth is talking about money. When you bring agencies together and they are putting their money on the table, sometimes there has been a lot of turf battles over that and we have tried to work around that and get partners to work together to first locate in our centers and design the kind of services they are going to provide and so forth. One thing the legislation really helped was it allowed other agencies to use their funds to help support the one stop system. That is written into the legislation and that is still a very general term, but we still talk about. Our goal is to decide first what services and how you are going to provide services. Then agencies can sit down after that is done and say how they are going to fund those services. A lot of other decisions can be made around that activity. That is all done through your MOU. You get into cost allocation, and cost sharing and resource sharing. I won''t go too deep into that. We are still working with a lot of our states and local areas to start documenting the things you do together so we can work and improve and develop those MOUs. I wish I could say we have good models to share with you. Right now we don''t. We are trying to get more and more and to put that up on our web page. They are still at the early stages of developing real good resource sharing agreements. Not to stay the services are not being provided out there, it is just trying to document them and how they are being provided gets into a lot of issues we are trying to work through. Just going back one stop is a location and it is not a recipient of federal funds. It is a location where all these partners come together to provide their services. We talk a lot about universal services in WIA and that is sort of the core services. It is services available to everyone and accessible to everyone. How we can share those costs from the partners to provide that so anybody coming in or accessing our programs and services can be provided with the level of service they need and what they are looking for. Each one stop is very unique. It is generally reflected based on that MOU and it is based around that local community or that local workforce board. So every board is a little different. In some states the centers look very consistent. They have a sort of a standard that has been cookie cut around the state. In other states, every one is completely different. There are some good models, some better models, but it is developed at the local level working with the local partners in the workforce area and developing the system that works best for them. We have three levels of centers, fully integrated centers that have one information system, one accounting system, one payroll system. The next level down would be the co-located center where we have several agencies co-located but still sort of operate very independently. And we have had some states that have gone to a complete electronic system. But now the law does require one physical location, so those are being reconsidered and reconfigured. Just to give you a flavor of what some of our leading states, what some of our new states, our early implementers have done. For example, in Florida, their legislation is considered a pilot under our legislation because they basically dissolved their Department of Labor system and went to a completely automated one stop center system. They have 108 full service centers but they are all located at their community colleges. They have several satellite systems. But when you go to Florida they are completely on the web. You go to www.virtualonestop.org and that provides all your core services in Florida. You can post a resume, you can look for a job. You can find where you can obtain services or where you need to go to go for intensive services. I mentioned earlier we have three levels of services. We have core which are provided to everyone. The next level up is what we call intensive and those are services that are more intensive skill assessment, skills training, a little more intensive job search workshops and courses that you would take or training we would provide you to find a job. And the next level we have is what we call training which is just purchased off the shelf training. So customers coming in would have core services available to them. If they are still unable to find a job, they would move up to intensive. And they would be provided more one on one contact or more intensive type services of maybe some job club activities and some resume writing or some other workshops of how to dress, how to interview, so forth, so on. If that didn''t help them obtain employment, we would look to see if training would help them and we would purchase training. Part of WIA also creates at the state level what we call individual training account. That is similar, we don''t like to use the term voucher, but it is an account where a voucher type tool is provided to that customer to purchase training. It must be in a demand occupation. And there is a state-wide training provider list where training providers must be approved and they are put on a list across the state and once they are on that list any customer with this voucher can purchase training at any one of those organizations. Training organizations are screened and they apply to be put on the state-wide training list. That process is a public process. It is an open process. So anyone can apply to have their classes put on it. It also requires providers to show their performance of training so that customers can see what the job scale and pay scales are, what the placement levels are and all their performance information from obtaining training in that organization so that a customer has all that information before they select a training provider. That is something new under the act. Most of our states are putting all this on-line. If you go into our web site at the Department of Labor you can get to every state''s web site. You can get to all their job banks, you can get to all their state-wide training provider lists and so forth so you can see what is out there, what is available. As well it is all on our federal site. No matter where you start or where you end up you can get back and go across all different levels, which is real nice. Going back to just some of what our other states are doing, Utah has built a very information rich web site that is across all their partners. It is probably the first state in our programs that has an information system for all their federal partners and all their state partners. They have all their participant information, training information, case management. All the partners agreed to use one information system so that they can see from a case management perspective each individual. Where they are? What has been provided to them? What they are looking for? They can track all that information. It is still maintains confidentiality to all the individual partners. They have limited screens and all that kind of security built in. It is our first state that has a comprehensive state-wide system for all the various aspects of information systems including the accounting information and paying bills and so forth. It really allows them to integrate all that, providing it via the web as well as in the office. Texas reconfigured their state into workforce boards and they are governed by a commission. They provide all their services via those boards. Each board has a comprehensive cost allocation system which is a big break through for us. They have spelled out what all the partners are going to provide and so forth. So that is another state I would say to look at as a model. Pennsylvania is moving toward a very information rich computer system that will have all their job bank, similar to Utah''s where all the partners will use one system across the state. All the agencies will use it and it provides all the job bank information and tracks the customer throughout the system. It allows them to access it from any point. These are also systems that employers can access. They can go in and post their own job orders, they can do their own job searches. They can ask our offices to do screening and so forth to do referrals. Another key feature of WIA is it allows fee for service and it spells it out in the legislation. It does not allow charging individuals, but it allows charging employers. This is a big active area that is growing more and more. With the tight labor market we have several organizations both at the state level and local level that are in the fee for service business. They are doing very intensive job search for employers. They are hosting individualized customized job fairs for employers. They are doing customized training. They are renting out their facilities. We have these brand new recently renovated with a lot of computer technology in the centers that they are renting out on weekends and late hours to other organizations to provide training. We have one of our centers in the Detroit area that is McCloud steel that is sending their new hires to do skills training and aptitude testing that they provide at a fee. What we are saying here is you can charge employers, it has to be very custom. It cannot be anything that you provided free to the employer in the past. And after that, it is how best of a service you can deliver. You have to provide a quality service if you are going to try to sell it because you are competing. It has raised some issues because you get into the question of government agencies competing with private enterprises providing the same service. But generally what we have found is we are providing services that aren''t provided by other for profit organizations. So that is a big area. I would say if you want to learn more about that, the state of Wisconsin is doing it throughout their state. All their local boards are doing all sorts of fee for service activities as well as the state of Minnesota. They have a lot of models, especially with these customized job fairs and special screening for employers that are relocating to the state. Once again I would like to point you to our web sites, all our information is up on the web. If you want to learn more about what is happening in WIA, we have our department Department of Labor web site is www.usworkforce.org We also have a regional web site and also in the America job bank web site. They are all interconnected. We are putting up all the WIA force on U.S. workforce, all the new agreements we have across federal agencies, some of the performance information, and all our policies up on there, the legislation, the regulations and so forth as well as in our region, you can get to all the states. Nice web sites. There is a lot of information out there that you can access. Also in our region you are free to call me, I have my number on one of the slides as well as my e-mail address. We are always out there to help all of you in anything we can do to further assist you, just let us know. With that I will close. I know I didn''t cover all my slides but I wanted to give you a feel for what WIA requires and what we are trying to accomplish, the role that everybody plays in the system. We are trying to build a system where everybody has a role and it works for the customer. It is what the customer wants, it is customer focused, and we are hoping we can satisfy the customer, provide quality services to them.
Thanks, Tom I think you just crammed two days of training into 20 minutes.
Thanks for doing that for us. Our first question?
My name is Harold, I''m the advocacy coordinator here at the center. I''m going to combine a couple different questions. First of all, is other than what you are doing with the teleconferences as far as advertising and making this knowledgeable to other people, what are the strategies in doing that? And you were talking about services, core services, training, etc. In the core services, what is the time frame before you go from the first service to the second service to-in order to get the best of this?
Let me answer the second part of that. We haven''t spelled out a standard time frame for that. It is done individually based on each customer. The state has a say in how they would like that to work. But it is really a local call. So a person can go from core to training right away based on their needs and their skills and abilities and what is needed to find them a job. Or it can take a little time. Most of our states are using a gateway type system where generally core services are provided immediately. There is a decision made regarding eligibility up front if they are available for intensive services and training. So we don''t spell that out. It is done locally. But generally it can be anywhere from an hour to a day to some states are providing everybody a core service-providing everybody to sit through a couple workshops that may take up to a week long to help them develop a resume and do some initial job search. So it is very flexible. It is usually a local call based by the board. Your question on strategies to get information out, if I understand that. One is we are using our web sites, we can get a lot of information out to everybody not within our system as well as outside our system. Our biggest concern now is to spread information outside of the Department of Labor to work more with all our federal partners and workforce strategies as well as our state and local level. We have been using the web and web sites to do that. But it is not to say on the street level, our centers are still out there. They may be reconfiguring their services and transitioning to WIA. But they are still there. They hasn''t changed that much. Now we have core and intensive. But we still have offices. Now we are moving them all into one office. The law requires one center which customers have wanted. We are still working at that level to work to do a better job to our customers at the state level and so forth. Hope that answered that part of that question.
Kelly of the Woodrow Wilson Rehab. We have two questions. The first one in your experience, who has been making sure that the one stops are physically and programmatically accessible?
That question, that is a requirement in our legislation. We have asked our states and our local levels to certify their centers. We have also entered into a agreement with the DBTAC to go around and provide training and check our centers. We have also relied on RSA to go around and review the centers to make sure they are program and physically accessible. I didn''t mention during my discussion, but I talked about workforce incentive grants. We have recently, this past year awarded $23 million to about 15 states, anywhere from $900,000 to S1 million to help make our centers more accessible and put more technology in our centers for people with disabilities, to build employer networks with disability organizations and so forth, to really beef up that area. Because that is where we have mainly been lacking, speaking honestly over the last couple years. We have not really served the disabled population well at all. Now it is a big initiative from the Secretary of Labor down as well as to our states to ensure our centers both meet those standards from a program and physical aspect.
Was there a second part of that question?
Yes. You started, you initiated. How are the one stops addressing the training needs of the partners in relationship to accessibility and in disability awareness?
Tom, why don''t you go ahead, elaborate a little bit more on the arrangement that you have with the regional DBTACs.
One is we have entered into an agreement with them to provide TA to our centers. They have gone to each of our states and they are providing ADA training and technical assistance on the whole disability side of program access, web site accessibility, all the things that they do well. Because we lack that. We''ve given them money to go to all our states across the country, to check our centers, to provide TA at the local level of what type of technology is needed, what are the things they need to do to make these centers and the locations accessible as well as their programs accessible. We have now followed up with that, providing we know there is a need out there. We have provided this extra investment of funds, this $23 million and it is going to be over, I think every year for the next couple years we are hoping to get $23 to $25 million so we can keep awarding grants so all our state receive them as well as to continue funding them to purchase technology. In the past there hasn''t been a funding stream to help pay for this. Our programs have said we don''t know what to buy, or what technology is available. It is not our expertise. That is why we are using the DBTACs as well as new grants to find out what at each state, so the centers are consistent in the kind of technology that is available. The assistive technology to make our training programs both accessible with a person with a disability and so forth. So it is a big investment in this area to really be able to provide services to this customer base
Tom we are going to go ahead and give Ken a nudge. See if he is awake there. I''m sure there are still a number of questions out there, if you could hold those until the end when we open it up again for questions to both Ken and Tom. Ken are you there?
Yes, I''m here. I wasn''t sleeping.
We are going to bring Ken McGill on board. Ken is the Associate Commissioner for Employment Support Programs for the Social Security Administration. He directs the Office of Employment Support Programs. That office is responsible for the policy and programs supporting the employment of people with disabilities who are receiving Social Security and supplemental security income benefits. He and his staff are currently leading the implementation of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act of 1999. Ken if you could spell out a little bit about what the ticket to work is.
Thanks a lot, Jennifer. I will be glad to. I spend quite a bit of my time these days talking about in a sense the ABCs of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act of 1999, which is the law that for us changed in some pretty big ways the way that Social Security and SSI beneficiaries get connected for employment support. It is been a long standing issue with the Congress and with the customers, people with disabilities and then all all the stakeholders in the process, that there aren''t good choices, there aren''t enough support, that there are disincentives in for people in the Social Security system and-to often prevent a good path toward employment. So the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act was a major step to try to tackle those barriers and to try to bring some more resource to the table and some better access and some better choice for people with disabilities. I have to say that it is a pretty complex and ambitious law. It has many pieces And it is going to take several years to get all of the pieces both built as building blocks and working together. So that is something I have been stressing a lot as I go around and talk to people, to organizations and to folks in the system and outside of our system. To keep that in mind that there are a number of pieces. I will talk a bit today about what the major features of the law are and how they ought to fit together over time to work for people as opposed to being in the way for people. The major features are really four in the legislation: One is the Ticket to Work and self-sufficiency as it is called which I will talk about briefly. A second are some new work incentives, some new policies to try to remove some of the fear factor and some of the disincentives that people experience. A third is a major change in the way health insurance protection is offered to people in our system. And then a fourth is a set of new service structures to help with these new policies and to provide some tools for people in a toolkit, if you will, for people with disabilities that are trying to figure their way through this system, figure out the complexities and to move toward work. Then I will talk about the status of where all these things are one year after enactment of the bill. I will refer you as did Tom, to our web site, which we are pretty proud of, we call it the work site. It is a good way to stay on top of what is right now often a pretty quick changing environment, a new regulation, new contract and grant opportunities, new policies moving in and out of effect. We have got a wealth of information there that is in fully accessible format. We redesigned the entire site to do this. It is part of the bigger Social Security site. The call letters are www.ssa.gov/work As I said it is called the work site. It has quite extensive links to other sources and quite a bit of information about some of these structures that I will be talking about today. So to get back to the major features of the legislation, the first is the Ticket to Work and self-sufficiency, which is really a new way for Social Security funds to be used to assist people in their work endeavor. People on SSI and SSDI, which are our two programs for disability, will be getting tickets this year. They will be able to use that ticket with a provider of their choice and to work, set up a individual plan with the provider. It is voluntary on both sides It is voluntary for the beneficiary and also voluntary for the providers in our system. The providers will be signing up with us, also this year. They are in our system called employment networks. And a provider can actually be a number of different kinds of entities. State vocation and rehabilitation agencies have special status in the law and we expect to be operating in all the state as employment networks. Also, the one stop centers under the Workforce Investment Act will have the legal capacity to become employment networks. And we expect to work with some of the new grantees and with the Department of Labor as we move toward implementation so those one stops and other labor sites that want to be involved as employment networks will figure out how to do that. And will realize an income stream to better serve people with disabilities in their setting. These new employment networks will be signing up under contracts with us. We have already engaged the services of what in the legislation is called a program manager. That is for us is the Maximus corporation, they have a five-year contract with us to help us to manage to recruit the new employment networks and to manage the flow of communications for our customers and for these new networks so that people can be connected in the site at their local level and can get questions answered, technical assistance, referral through a variety of ways through a toll free number, through web site and through other avenues. So that is something that we are in the process of building. We do have the program manager contract up and running. They have a national toll free number and are starting to work with the system. We have not contracted with employment networks. We expect to put a request for proposal for that very soon. And we will be signing up those on an open ended basis all through the implementation of the activity. It is not a competitive bidding process for networks. Any network that meets the qualifications under our law which are not very restricted, will be able to sign up with us to work under this new system. The goal is really to provide a pretty good array of choice for beneficiaries to work with kind of network that will serve their particular needs best. These new networks will be paid based on a payment system that is spelled out in the legislation. It is a milestone and an outcome based system so that the goal for beneficiaries is to move into jobs that will allow them to gain independence from Social Social Security rolls and providers will be available to share in the success by getting paid over a long standing period, up to five years with essentially the savings from our trust funds that would accrue as people move off the Social Security rolls. We have spelled out this new payment system and proposed regulations that were published just at the end of last year. The comment period for those proposed rules were 60 days, which ended yesterday, we got quite a bushel load of comments on that. We will be working over the next several months to develop final regulations based on those comments. We hope to put those forward so there is a good solid grounding for the program as we move into further implementation. The legislation calls for us to phase this ticket system in on a gradual basis and in some locations this year and some other next year and over a three-year period. So we are under full national implementation by January of 2004. We have 13 state selected. Those are the first 13 for this year, will be doing it on a state-wide basis for the tickets during this year as we get those employment networks set up and as we issue tickets later during this year to the individuals in those states. Then we will be bringing up the states in two more groups, next year and the year after so we can meet the 2004 date for implementation. Now while that is going on, while we are rolling out that new ticket system, we have already actually then implementing some of the new work incentive policies which I mentioned as the seconds big set of features for the legislation. A couple important ones I want to stress. One is a new thing called expedited reinstatement or what I called "easy back on," which allows DI and SSI beneficiaries who might have worked their way off the rolls but who find because of their disability they can''t stay at that level and need to come back on the rolls, can now for a five year period after they are terminated from our program can come back to us with a relatively simple post eligibility process, not a whole new application. We can put the person back on the rolls quickly with what are called provisional payments and then be paying the person while we are making the new decision as for continuing disability. This is to try to reduce that fear factor that people have about leaving the rolls and their situation worsening because of it. Another pretty important piece of this legislation policy-wise is that protection from continuing disability review process is there for people who use their tickets. That is something as the ticket system starts up will allow people who are actively using their tickets and moving toward independence won''t be subjected to continuing disability reviews which are medical review process that we have to do of everybody that is on our roll. Next year there will also be a further protection from work , what is called work continuing disability reviews. So that the fact that a person has gone to work will not trigger a full scale medical review of the person''s situation. So those are a couple of new protections that are in effect in the first case as the ticket system rolls out. Now a little bit of background that is not in the legislation but is important for people to remember, is that we have published final regulations that are effective now to both increase and index the amounts that we consider when determining a person''s continuing disability. It is called the substantial gainful activity level and another amount that is called a trial work period. And then one is a third amount, the student earned income exclusion, which is the amount of money that a student on the SSI program can earn and still be able to keep their benefit without reduction. Those are important new regulations that are a backdrop for the other changes that are happening because of the legislation. They are in the policy area as something for folks in the system to understand and know about. Now a third big set of features in the new legislation as I mentioned, are the health insurance protection. For this piece of legislation, it affects both the Medicare and Medicaid program. Medicare is the federal health insurance program that typically is for people who are on the SSDI system and also people that are receiving old age benefits, retirement benefits, from our system. The new change in the ticket to work legislation was basically just to add for those people who are working and have worked their way beyond the cash benefit roll , to add a four and a half year period during which they can continue to purchase their Medicare without paying for the expensive part A of Medicare, but only paying the monthly premium for part B. That is a pretty important feature added to the pre-existing before the law extension that was about a four-year period. So adding up to a total of eight and a half years for someone to be able to continue that connection to Medicare, if that is the health insurance that they were relying on. For Medicaid, which is the other big federal program, that program is federally funded by quite a bit, but it is a state by state program. So that is important to keep in mind. What the Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act did for Medicaid is to offer the states some choices on, some more flexibility in covering people who move pass the cash benefit rolls for SSI, which is typically those folks that have Medicaid coverage as their health insurance. What the ticket to work legislation did was offer the states the ability to cover people with more flexible income and resource limits and to allow them to cover people who work their way off the cash benefits rolls. Each state must pick up on that. It is not a national mandate or requirement. Each state must pick up and take that on. To date we have nine state that have taken on what is called a "buy in" in this legislation and are covering people who have moved their way through our system. At least the same amount are moving toward having a full scale "buy in" in place. And quite a few other states are thinking about it or being lobbied by various folks in the community about it or have active groups working on it. That is going to be an evolving system and one that is pretty important for the wrap around coverage that Medicaid offers to people who are on SSI or who at one time were but now are working. So that is the Medicaid and the Medicare changes are pretty important to individuals trying to make that decision to go to work and continue their health care in many cases. The fourth big area in the Ticket to Work legislation as I mentioned before, are some new service structures that have been set up. I will mention the most important ones of those. First is the requirement for congress that we build and maintain expertise about all these new systems and about the complexities of the work incentive and employment support for people with disabilities in our system. Both an internal expertise as well as new external expertise. Inside what we have done is create a new position called employment support representative. That is a new position in Social Security offices that we are piloting right now. We have 32 of those new jobs filled, covering about 55 locations around the country. Those individuals are the "go to" expert within Social Security. They have a requirement also in their job to work with the community and to provide training and technical assistance to organizations and to our customers. We are piloting that position and we have intention to continue to fill more of those each of our fiscal years as our budget allows. We are looking to that pilot to tell us a bit about what is the right workload mix for those individuals. What are the tasks that can be handled within a service area? What is the exact right setting either at a local community based operation or in a cadre type setting? We are excited about that position and we think it is long range a good way to help people with this pretty complex part of the Social Security system. Now, congress also said in addition to internal expertise that we ought to start providing grants for the first time to community based agencies to provide benefits, planning assistance and outreach to people receiving our benefits as they are trying to move toward employment. So we have started that process up. Right now we have set in motion funding for 42 states and two territories for these new benefits planning and assistance grants. There is something just under 100 actual grantees because there are often multiple grantees in the larger states. These new entities are being provided with training and technical assistance by three university contractors of ours who are working on how to become a benefits planning assister, what are the work incentives and the other supports in our system and also in the complementary systems in the labor department and in the health insurance system and in other federal and state programs. So that is a big new set of expertise. These new grantees, the first ones of them are finishing up their training and are starting now. We expect to have full national coverage a little bit later this year. I told you we have 42 states and two territories covered. We had 8 states where we did not have grants in our announcements that were awardable either because no one applied or because no acceptable grantees applied. We are right now in the process of a second batch, a second announcement for that. We expect to be able to get those last states covered and those new grants up and running a little bit later this year, late spring. Now in addition a third structure that is going to be new for us is, although it is not new for the system, that is protection and advocacy agencies in all the state will be provided with grant money from Social Security to work with our beneficiaries on employment issues as they experience work in the new ticket system but also as they work through outside of the ticket system for our beneficiaries both SSI and DI. We have just closed the announcements for that and we are working with the protection protection and advocacy agencies in each of the states, to get those new grant monies awarded and to get training to them from our same university contractors on work incentives and on the new ticket to work system. Then we expect again late spring to have those entities up and running and assisting people in the system out there as it unfolds in these other pieces. Now we had previously awarded grants to a dozen states where what is called the state partnership initiative. That is a series of research projects whereby we have required the states to set up partnerships with the labor agencies, the rehabilitation agencies, the health and mental health agencies and other partners at the local level. A number of states already have benefits planning assistance going on. They already have connects between those localized and state-wide agencies that has been working quite well over the last couple of years within those new grants. So we want to use those as building blocks to these other activities and to try to help make sense at the local and state level about this pretty complex system. Now overarching all of this is a policy advisory board we have called the ticket to work and work incentive improvement advisory panel. That is a body that was appointed by the president and by both houses of congress, 12 members, over half of whom are people with disabilities themselves and all of whom are experts in one fashion or another about different pieces of this big puzzle on disability and employment. They have been working since last summer to provide advice to us and to the congress on the implementation of all this. They will be continuing to do that over the full multi-year process of implementation. So that has been a good source of information and feedback to us as we have gone through these different pieces and worked to get them all to fit together. I want to close with that notion of coming together. You see that there are a number of pieces here, both structures and new policies to new ways of doing business and some new partnerships that did not exist before either because the entities were not in existence or because the partners worked together in other settings but not around our customers, the people with disabilities that receive benefits from Social Security. So I think it is absolutely critical that we of course at the national level try to get this right and try to get the funding out and try to do things so that it makes the best sense, get public information and training materials out there to try to keep everybody up to date and things on track and try to get earnings reported properly and get our systems in place. But I think it is also just as important that at the local and state level that the communities know and work with these new systems. I think there is quite a bit of opportunity here to bring new money into the system. Quite a bit of opportunity for some of these new partnerships to really serve people well at the street level who are trying to make sense out of this, people with disabilities who are trying to make the decision to work. So I would encourage all of you in the both in the labor system as well as in the independent living systems and other parts of the disability community, to pay attention to this and to try to learn it as best you can and to pay attention to that local level need so that the health care pieces, the policy pieces and the new service structures work reasonable well together. We may not get it all exactly right and perfect in the opening rounds, but we expect over time for that to happen so that we have got a pretty good system over time to help serve more and more people. So I will stop there. And I''m open to any questions.
Great. I have an on-line question on here, we have about 30 but we will do the first one first. This is for Ken. Is it true that a person on SSI or SSDI that has been on it for less than three years is not eligible for the ticket?
No, that is not true. Our proposed rules spell out who is eligible for a ticket. Right now under those proposed rules would be almost everyone who is receiving SSI or SSDI benefits would be eligible to get a ticket as well as new people who come on to the rolls, as they do come on the rolls later this year and next. The only stipulations are that of course for now they have to be living in the 13 states that we are starting with this year. Then later states as we bring them up. And that they must be between the ages of 18 and 65. And that they must not be considered in our system medical improvement expected. Those folks, that is a fairly small group, but it is a group of people, would get their ticket after their first continuing disability review. So the vast majority of DI and SSI beneficiaries upon eligibility would get a ticket.
Great, thanks. Our next question, then?
Yes, hi there. I have a question regarding the first part of this presentation, the Workforce Investment Act. If a person through an account has the ability to purchase training at their own choice, how does that work regarding places that are offering training? How does a vendor become eligible to be on the state list? How does that affect the person''s choice if they were to choose one center over another and one wasn''t on the list?
With our funds they have to be on the list. That is one of our requirements in the law. To get put on a list, it is an open system. Any vendor or training organization fills out an application at their local workforce board. It is reviewed and there is general criteria that is public information of what needs to be required in that application. That is forwarded on to the state and they are put on that list. But for customers to choose with our funds it must be an approved organization.
As I understand it, right now tickets are not available to adolescents with disabilities.
If I understand the question, right now tickets are not available to adolescents with disabilities.
Right. And I was wondering if SSA is considering changing that rule. Because there are a lot of young people with disabilities who desperately need rehabilitative services.
So the question is if there would be an option later for the ticket to be available for adolescents. If I understood that correctly. Ken?
Yes, I understand the question. It is a question we have been getting quite a bit. I mentioned earlier we did put proposed regulations out that stated that the an individual younger than age 18 would not get a ticket. We did consider giving tickets to younger individuals, 16 and 17 year olds, for instance. We did not have a consensus within the administration on what, how we ought to do that and whether it made sense to do that. We specifically asked for comment from the public in the regulation process. We are receiving as I mentioned, the comment period closed yesterday and we are getting quite a number of comments in about that. We will be looking at that issue very hard as we promised in the regulation. And you will certainly want to look at the final regulations to see whether or not that is something we were able to deal with.
Thanks for your question.
I actually have a couple of questions. My first question was how does the ticket to work relate to the plan to achieve self-sufficiency if it relates at all? And my second question is what are the criteria for being an employment network? I know the RFP''s aren''t out yet, I was wondering if you had information on the general criterion.
The first question is the ticket and the plan for self support are past, as it is called. They are things that can happen consistent with each other in the system. A person certainly may be on a pass plan. We have some people that are. They may also be working with an employment network once we get that system up and running with their ticket. So they are not mutually exclusive. We have been looking at making sure we have good policy about issues for the employment networks and not receiving as the law requires, not receiving cash for their services under our system from an individual. So that is the only real issue for us on a pass plan is to make sure that that is not happening while an individual is either doing both or may do one for a while and then the other. In terms of the employment network requirements, the basics there are that-and there are some specifics that the law set up. But basically an employment network can be either a public or private business and can be a community agency or a state agency. It can be a grantee of some other organization basically that can provide employment services. It can be a range of things from vocational rehabilitation services or counseling or case management or employment services or resume building or any training. There are a number of different types of services. An entity really just has to sign up and say they do provide those kinds of services and that they are qualified to do so. We expect actually a pretty broad range of types of entities as employment networks. I also mentioned one stop centers, alternate providers that are already working under contract with us. It could be quite a range. The RFP when it comes out will spell out in a little more detail about that.
We had a question about the one stop-excuse me-the vendors who would be providing training under the Workforce Investment Act. For example, in the past year we have had some local private colleges that have provided job training like business, secretarial, accounting. But they have been located in an inaccessible building. Would a vendor like that be able to qualify as a provider within a state?
I would have to say yes and no. The criteria for qualifying as a training provider is developed at the state level. It is up to the governor to provide criteria of who is eligible to be on that list. And all the criteria that would be used to evaluate that vendor. Generally we have said they have to be accessible. They have to meet that criteria that is done at the state level. I should to be honest, we do know there are organizations out there that are still not accessible. But I can''t tell you if that has prevented them from getting on the state-wide list or not. Because each governor has developed a little different criteria to be on those lists.
Thanks for your question. We have time to take one or two additional questions. And then I''m going to throw it back to each of you, Tom and Ken, for brief closing comments.
Our question is very simple. Where do we get a list of the advisory panel members?
The advisory panel members, and quite a bit of other information about the advisory panel is on our web site. That I mentioned the call letters for. They are building their own web site which will be an adjunct to that. So that is the easiest way to get it very quickly with biographical information and quite a bit of information about the meetings they have had to date. They just issued their advice report to us, that is also public record.
Let us go over the web site again.
The SSA web site is www.ssa.gov/work That gets you to our main page for the work site. There is a section there on Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act which include all the panel activities.
I am asking a question in reference to someone going to work and they are on CHAMPUS. Are you involved in any way on this or how can you inform us on reference to without losing CHAMPUS
That is not going to be something I''m going to be able to help you with. I would need to refer you to the office of personnel management and/or the individuals own federal agency. HR department. It is not something that we manage from Social Security.
Thanks for your question. I would like to thank both of you Tom, and Ken for joining us today. We would like to refer people to the web sites as both of you have provided a wealth of information. At this point I will turn it back to each of you if you have a brief closing comments for us.
I really appreciate the chance to speak with all of you. As we know we are building this system and we need your help and support. We want you to be involved in this system in all areas so that we can serve our customers better. I again would like to emphasize our web site specifically that you can get to our state web sites that will answer a lot of your questions as you mentioned about how you become a vendor and so forth. We are connecting all these sites so you can apply for this and so forth. But we are looking forward to working with you. Also serving people with disabilities better and being more accessible and ensure that we are accessible. We need your help to serve this population because we do not have expertise in this area. We are looking forward to a great partnership with all the agencies and the organizations out there to build a better system. And if anything I can do, please contact me at my phone number or at my e-mail I can maybe point you in the right direction or get you the information you need.
Thanks, Tom. Ken?
My message is almost the same. I guess minds in federal agencies work alike. We are also building a new system, it is a new one in many aspects. It has great promise for people with disabilities. Lots of choices. Lots of new paths for them. Lots of barrier removal. But not without, as I mentioned before, complexity and a need for learning the way and figuring out how best to use the tools that the choices bring. So to the extent that we have encouraged any of you to become partners in one way or another, or to learn about this system, that is to all of our advantages as we work with people with disabilities and try to encourage those who want to to move toward jobs and independence. Thanks for the opportunity the center provides for this. And we look forward to working with you all.
Thanks Ken and Tom. Thanks so much for dialing in today. We enjoyed having you on the call. Again this was a lot of information in a very short period of time so if you do have more questions, please consider the resources on the Great Lakes web site. Also consider contacting your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center that hosted today''s session at 800-949-4232. Or visit the Great Lakes web site at www.adagreatlakes.org for resources. We hope to have all of you back joining us next month on March 20th, we will have Kim MacDonald-Wilson from the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University joining us and talking about accommodating employees with psychiatric disabilities in the workplace, an issue that has become very sensitive among employers especially as we move into the new millennium. Also on April 17th we will have Barry Taylor from Equip for Equality, the Illinois protection and advocacy, and Peter Maida from the Key Bridge Foundation, talking about the issues of whether or not to complain, file a complaint, look to mediation or look to filing a lawsuit when it comes to your ADA resolution options. In May we are very excited to have with us Mike Paciello, the initiator of the World Wide Web Accessibility Initiative. He recently authored a book on creating accessible web sites and so we are going to take a technology tour of how to provide electronic access, specifically web sites that are accessible to people with disabilities. So look to the upcoming schedule on the Great Lakes web site, again www.adagreatlakes.org We hope to have you back again. If you have any questions, please call your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center at 800-949-4232. Thanks for joining us today.