Thank You Letter To President Clinton For
His Efforts On Behalf Of The WIIA.
December 3, 1999
President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Clinton:
On behalf of the 208,000 members and 1,200 affiliates of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), I am writing to express our deep appreciation for your efforts on behalf of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (HR 1180). This much needed and long overdue legislation will make important reforms to Social Security’s disability programs in order to allow more people with severe mental illnesses to leave the SSI and SSDI rolls to go to work.
NAMI is grateful for the tremendous bipartisan effort that has gone into this new law. NAMI would like to specifically acknowledge the contributions of your Administration to the process of moving this legislation through Congress. From your endorsement of the bill in the Administration’s FY 2000 budget plan, to the dozens of public declarations of support, through to the final stages of negotiations, you have been a steadfast supporter of work incentives reform.
NAMI is especially pleased that the final version of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act will include all of the critical elements needed to help SSI and SSDI recipients enter the workforce. Among these are:
- New state Medicaid options to establish buy-in options for people with disabilities (with a state infrastructure grant program to provide states with incentives to offer these new options),
- Extended Medicare coverage for both current and future SSDI beneficiaries who return to work (NAMI is hopeful that the modest 4.5 year extension in the final can be restored next year back to the 6-year extension in the House-passed version of HR 1180),
- A new "expedited re-entry" provision that will allow adults with severe mental illnesses and other disabilities to quickly return to cash benefits in event of an acute episode of severe symptoms,
- Extended demonstration authority for Social Security, with a requirement for the agency to put in place a study to examine a "sliding scale 2 for 1" reduction of SSDI cash benefits,
- A new state Medicaid demonstration option for
- New protections from unscheduled "continuing disability reviews" that unfairly target people that take the risk of entering the workforce,
- Creation of a work incentives planning program to help beneficiaries get access to independent counseling and assistance services regarding their options for employment programs and extended health coverage, and
- Permanent authorization of a new "ticket to independence" program that will allow people with disabilities the ability to seek extended (up to 5 years) employment and rehabilitation services outside of the current public vocational rehabilitation monopoly.
NAMI would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the many officials within your Administration that made passage of this legislation possible. While all the many contributors are too numerous to mention here, NAMI is especially grateful for the efforts of Chris Jennings and Jean Lambrew (White House Domestic Policy Council), Gene Sperling (White House National Economic Council), Audrey Tayse-Haynes (Office of Mrs. Gore), Jonathan Young ( White House Office of Public Liaison), Susan Daniels and Judy Chesser (Social Security Administration), Becky Ogle (President’s Task Force on Employment of Adults With Disabilities), and Tim Westmoreland (Health Care Financing Administration).
As the nation’s largest organization representing people with severe mental illnesses and their families, NAMI is encouraged by the bipartisan cooperation that has brought the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act to the verge of being signed into law. While this new law will not solve every problem that exists in Social Security’s disability programs, it is a landmark set of reforms that mark an important milestone in federal policy – that income support and health care programs should foster, rather than penalize work. Thank you for your continued leadership on this critically important issue for people with severe mental illnesses and their families.
Laurie M. Flynn
cc: Chris Jennings, White House Domestic Policy Council
Jean Lambrew, White House Domestic Policy Council
Gene Sperling, White House National Economic Council
Jonathan Young, White House Office of Public Liaison
Audrey Tayse-Haynes, Office of Mrs. Gore
Susan Daniels, Social Security Administration
Judy Chesser, Social Security Administration
Becky Ogle, Presidents Task Force on Employment of Adults With Disabilities
Tim Westmoreland, Health Care Financing Administration