HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE SUBJECT: THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION'S MANAGEMENT OF THE TICKET TO WORK PROGRAM
CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE CLAY E. SHAW JR. (R-FL)
WITNESSES: PANEL I: BENJEARLENE NELSON, TICKET TO WORK PARTICIPANT , WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, ACCOMPANIED BY RON RATTAY, GULF STREAM GOODWILL INDUSTRIES INC.; CHARMAINE TERI HANCOCK, TICKET TO WORK PARTICIPANT, NEWNAN, GEORGIA;
PANEL II: MARTIN H. GERRY, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DISABILITY AND INCOME SECURITY PROGRAMS, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION; TROY R. JUSTESEN, ED.D., ACTING DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION SERVICES, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION;
PANEL III: SARAH WIGGINS MITCHELL, CHAIR, TICKET TO WORK AND WORK INCENTIVES ADVISORY PANEL; THOMAS P. GOLDEN, MEMBER, TICKET TO WORK AND WORK INCENTIVES ADVISORY PANEL; PAUL J. SEIFERT, SOCIAL SECURITY TASK FORCE, CONSORTIUM FOR CITIZENS WITH DISABILITIES; TOM FORAN, VICE PRESIDENT, INTEGRATED DISABILITY RESOURCES, INC., BLOOMFIELD, CONNECTICUT; QUINTIN M. MITCHELL, DIRECTOR, VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION SERVICES, RICHMOND AREA ARC, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA; SUSAN WEBB, ARIZONA EMPLOYMENT NETWORK ASSOCIATION, PHOENIX, ARIZONA; JOHN COBURN, STAFF ATTORNEY, HEALTH AND DISABILITY ADVOCATES, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
LOCATION: B-318 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
REP. CLAY E. SHAW, JR. (R-FL): Good morning. Today our subcommittee will examine the Social Security Administration's management of the Ticket to Work program. The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act was signed into law in December of 1999. The goal of this landmark legislation is to remove barriers and increase incentives for individuals with disabilities to seek work. These incentives empower beneficiaries with choices of job training and placement services.
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REP. KENNY C. HULSHOF (R-MO): Thanks, Mr. Chairman. I promised Mr. Hayworth-he had to step out just for a moment, and I promised that we would not ask for a recorded roll call vote on whether we believe he has a face for radio.
REP. SHAW: We're still wondering if he has a face for politics.
That'll teach him to leave the hearing.
REP. HULSHOF: I'm sure he'll be back any minute now. I certainly don't have the breadth of experience as the chairman as far as the number of hearings, but I do look around the room and I think of the number of hearings that this subcommittee has had regarding this issue. And I see some familiar faces here in the hearing room who have been with us working on this issue, actually even back to 1997 I think is when we began under a former chairman, now Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, when he chaired this committee.
We have a very active disability community in Central Missouri and I'll confess that before they brought this issue to my attention about things like the income cliff and things like losing health insurance and things like, you know, the barriers and obstacles in place to keep people who want to return to the workforce and be productive and the self-esteem and all those things, they are the ones who brought it to my attention. And so it is great that we can come and to talk about a successful program, but also then to see what we need to do to make sure that this program continues. You know, that we go and recruit others and tell others about this very successful program because-you know, this was an interesting political lesson for me because this was the first time I actually got to be on a conference committee. That is, to work with Senator Kennedy and Rick Lazio of New York, again a former member, and we were trying to work the details of this out.
And I know that when the bill, the final version-there were folks that were concerned about the final version. But I think we had a good product. There's my friend back. And so, again, whatever suggestions that you have-and I applaud each of you. And I know, Ms. Hancock, just as a final question, I know you are not here for self-promotion, but where can I get your book? (Laughs.)
MS. HANCOCK: I'll send you a copy.
REP. HULSHOF: Okay.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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REP. HULSHOF: Let me announce that I think there are votes upcoming and there are some members on the next panel that actually have flights to catch. So if members can try to confine their remarks to the time allotted, I would appreciate it. Let me just-I'm going to make a quick comment and a question, taking my time.
I appreciate, Mr. Justesen, in your testimony you recognize-you're absolutely correct that state vocational rehabilitation agencies do have long histories that predate the Ticket program and then most of the employment networks today. But I also appreciate that you, in that same paragraph on page six of your testimony, state unequivocally that you value the employment network partners and recognize the need for their participation not only for the services that they provide, but for the choice of service provisions that they offer. If you mention Columbia, Missouri, the name Advent Enterprises, everybody immediately understands that this is a private vocational rehabilitation service that has a good relationship with the state VR, and so I appreciate that.
Mr. Gerry, I know that we have beaten you up a bit about the fact that 90 percent of the tickets are being assigned to the state vocational rehabilitation agencies and only 10 percent to the employment networks. The only comment I would have-and you've set out a number of reasons why that's the case. What I wanted to just reiterate in anticipation of the next panel, there are those that are expressing the burdens of the payment process. One referred to it as, I think, quote, "administrative drag," and I've enlisted that term from the next panel, which forces these employment networks to spend time and their resources dealing with Maximus and/or the agency, rather than helping the beneficiaries.
And a couple of examples that seem to be a bit egregious-let me ask if you agree -- $20,000 due from the agency, three to 12 months or longer. I mean, I recognize what you said earlier about capitalization and some of the smaller networks, and yet waiting for that amount of funds for any private agency seems to be a pretty substantial burden. Or some citing the fact that they spend more money and staff time to collect the payment than the payment amount.
Other than-I know, again, you've talked about Maximus briefly. What can the agency-what can you do or the Social Security Administration do to address their concerns on administrative drag?
MR. GERRY: Well, we actually have been doing several things, and in my written testimony I provide a little more detail about this. But on the payment collection issue I think we've done some things that make it much easier and much less time consuming and, frankly, less expensive for ENs. We have changed our administrative procedures to allow-we used to require a much more rigorous verification of ongoing employment. We had the issue of pay stubs. We had expectations that beneficiaries would continue to provide evidence on a monthly or a quarterly basis that they continued to be employed.
Now, many beneficiaries once they're employed don't particularly want to go back and forth to the EN, and that makes perfectly good sense. So we've actually changed our administrative procedures to allow sort of a good faith verification that the EN is not aware of any change in the employment status, rather than requiring the collection of pay stubs. Now, that's a big change in terms of the amount of work that has to go on. So the first time that a payment is claimed we want some proof that the individual went to work, but we're not requiring that kind of documentation for all of the payments.
And we think that-we've also created three or four different ways in which payments can be made either quarterly or monthly, and we've given choices to the ENs of how to basically manage the payment process. So those are efforts trying to make it easier. And I think on the pay stub collection of information front we've done a pretty good job of eliminating a lot of the problems. But the staggering and the timing of payments, the amounts of the payments, those are problems that we're actively reviewing and I think Congress intended in the legislation that the commissioner look at that, and we are doing that right now.
REP. HULSHOF: Last comment and then I'll yield briefly to Mr. Pomeroy and then Mr. Brady. Even before the Ticket program was signed into law, this subcommittee has actually been concerned about overpayments. And we've had hearings and this issue-each time overpayments has been one of the serious concerns. And so I also wanted to, at least on the record, express that matter.
MR. GERRY: If I could just comment, and I'll do it briefly.
REP. HULSHOF: Yeah, okay.
MR. GERRY: I have a lot of detail about what we're doing right now in terms of some of the systems changes. But I want to say for the record that this is a matter of the highest priority that the commissioner handed me personally. I think there is-we have to move and we have to move extremely quickly on the overpayment problem. I think it is one of the most serious barriers to getting people to work, and I think that it's something that we cannot just let the-even though it's been accelerated, the routine changes of our systems and wait for that. I think we're looking at as many different ways as we can right now to make that problem disappear, because I think it is a serious problem.
REP. HULSHOF: There are those in the audience nodding their heads in assent to that statement.