The CR passed by the House and Senate includes $27 million for the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program and $7 million for the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program. Since their inception, WIPA and PABSS have provided essential support to help Social Security and SSI disability beneficiaries attain self-sufficiency through work. The authorization of appropriations for the PABSS and WIPA programs expired on September 30, 2011. The Social Security Administration set aside funding to sustain the PABSS program until September 30, 2012 and the WIPA program until June 30, 2012, but did not continue to fund the programs after those dates. Funding under the CR will allow the restarting of the programs.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and 16 co-sponsors introduced H.R. 6061, the “WIPA and PABSS Continuation of Services Act of 2012.” The Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program funds Community Work Incentive Coordinators who help beneficiaries of Social Security’s disability programs understand their options for pursuing opportunities to work. WIPA funds over 100 projects across the nation. The Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program provides beneficiaries with information, advice, advocacy and other services that beneficiaries may need to find, keep, or regain employment. PABSS funds 57 grantees in every state and in U.S. territories.
Both programs are permanently authorized, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses its annual appropriation for the agency’s overall operating expenses to fund the grantees. Congress has several times adopted bipartisan legislation to extend SSA’s specific authorization to use already-appropriated operating budget funds. Currently, there is funding to sustain WIPA until June 30, 2012 and PABSS until September 30, 2012, at which point the programs will cease operations. H.R. 6061 would continue WIPA and PABSS by removing any ambiguity in existing law about SSA’s authority to continue WIPA and PABSS grants. The bill removes a conflicting provision from the statute that authorized a particular amount and time frame for funding of the WIPA and PABSS programs. It leaves in place the underlying provisions that permanently establish the two programs, including the standing authorization for SSA to use its annual operating budget to fund them. The Arc supports efforts to continue WIPA and PABSS.
On September 23, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security and Subcommittee on Human Resources, held a joint oversight hearing on work incentives in Social Security disability programs. The hearing focused on work incentives for people with disabilities who receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits, including work incentive programs authorized under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-170). Click here to review witnesses’ written testimony and here to watch an archived video of the hearing.