National Special Needs Network, Inc..

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A Proposal

Adopted As The Social Security Administration's "Ticket To Work" Program

Presented to the Honorable

President William Jefferson Clinton

on October 31, 1995

"HUMANITARIAN WELFARE REFORM"

 

WHEREAS, the American welfare system is under intense scrutiny as a result of a long history of mismanagement and increasing budgetary limitations, provider and recipient abuses, and;

 

WHEREAS the United States of America is in need of an alternative system for welfare and public assistance distribution which is equitable and just and which takes into consideration a recipient's prevailing needs versus the current system that may provide benefits to individuals who are otherwise capable of self-sufficiency, and;

 

WHEREAS the ongoing diminution and restructuring of available benefits impacts negatively upon the capacity of otherwise-qualified persons to rely upon public funding, thus creating a need to discover and develop alternative private and other sources of funds, the government of the United States should consider incentives in the form of tax reductions and rebates for those families exploring such options who might otherwise continue to rely exclusively on income transfer programs provided by the State and Federal Human Services systems, and;

 

WHEREAS the National Special Needs Network has dedicated itself to the development and maintenance of workable alternatives to traditional welfare programs,

 

The following factors should be considered:

 

Disability cannot and should not be equated with incapacity, poverty or dependence. Programs presently in existence predicate themselves upon the erroneous idea that the disabled are essentially incapable of making any constructive contribution to the economic and social fabric of American society. The effect of current social policies is to create separate standards for different groups within American society, disabled and non-disabled. Federal programs presently in existence, such as Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and others demand the economic impoverishment of recipients as a prerequisite for eligibility while failing to account for the exclusionary effects created by this paternalistic policy which effectively denies the disabled full participation in the American way of life.

 

There is a portion of the disabled, chronically ill, and frail elderly populations of the United States which are capable of economic self-sufficiency without the benefits provided under the present welfare system. Additionally, there are those citizens who are capable of more limited employment and independence, who are relegated to spending their days unproductively since gainful employment would disqualify them from eligibility for necessary and needed financial and medical benefits.

 

Given the present mood of austerity prevailing throughout the country, cuts to existing social programs will take effect across the board, disqualifying all alike, regardless of need or available resources.

 

It is the belief of The National Special Needs Network that programs can be streamlined so as to meet the needs of individual recipients.

 

The present system of support services is based on an outmoded and inefficient paradigm of incapacity and impoverishment. The disabled have been seen, and continue to be seen in some quarters, as a population in dire need of gentle guidance and patrony.

 

By linking the welfare system with the special needs system the government perpetuates a gross injustice. Programs and income distributions for both the special needs population and the economically disadvantaged are tied to a false index of "need" based on economic solvency. This system ignores the fact that a good many disabled people must impoverish themselves in order to benefit from this system. In many instances money is placed in others' bank accounts or in safety deposit boxes so as not to exceed the ridiculously low asset caps imposed by the government. This system effectively excludes the disabled from full economic participation in our society, costs the government many millions of dollars in uncollected revenues, and works, counterintuitively, to keep the handicapped dependent on others.

 

This is unhappily necessary, under the present system, for a number of reasons:

 

First, because individuals with special needs frequently must face extraordinary medical expenses for which Medicaid is often the only source of coverage;

 

Second, because many programs and forms of assistance are predicated not upon a person's disability, but upon their qualification for public benefits;

 

Third, because individuals with special needs often require adaptive training and equipment which are available through State and Federal sources, eligibility for which are based on financial status.

 

As a result, programs as they currently exist revolve upon illusory poverty. Upon this basis, the government pays out billions of dollars in unnecessary benefits that are linked by default to necessary services.

 

Humanitarian welfare reform must rely upon recognition of the fact that disability does not imply poverty. The special needs population as a whole is a group capable of tremendous economic productivity and social integration, whether through amassed resources or through employment. Therefore, income transfer programs should seek to supplement and to reinforce income earned by work, rather than penalizing those disabled persons seeking to enter the work force.

 

Access to specialized services, medical, and crisis management care must be detached from the concept of economic need. Even the wealthiest disabled person would find his or her economic avails unequal to the task of meeting extraordinary medical expenses incurred due to disability. Private insurance should be the first bulwark against medical expenditures, even while Medicaid and Medicare are made generally available to all persons with special needs to help them meet these costs.

 

The special needs population is marked by a permanent and recurring, as opposed to a transitory, need for specialized services.  Amongst the most important of specialized services is structured crisis management care. The lifelong nature of most disabilities distinguishes the special needs population from the temporarily economically disadvantaged. Welfare reform schemes which propose time limitations, deadlines and productivity requirements upon recipients are absolutely ill-suited to the case of persons with special needs and should not be imposed upon them. The special needs population must be served through a system of creative personal planning based upon the capacity of self-actualization of each disabled citizen.

 

Individualized support plans can include access to special programming, adaptive equipment, respite care, and other forms of support. Income transfer programs can distribute benefits along a graduated income continuum. This will allow disabled persons in training programs or those persons with special needs who are ultimately unable to attain full economic independence, to continue to receive benefits to supplement limited incomes.

 

The establishment of a productivity-based income transfer system will ultimately save the State and Federal governments hundreds of millions of dollars annually even while insuring that those individuals most in need continue to receive necessary and deserved benefits. By liberating income transfer and special needs programs from the spectre of illusory poverty the government can insure that the special needs population can continue to make great strides toward full social integration, even while recognizing the uniqueness of this vast population of Americans.

 

Humanitarian welfare reform must rely not on the budgetary ax, but on the economic scalpel. Vast cuts across the board benefit no one, and ultimately will cost taxpayers much more than thoughtful and creative fine tuning of assistance programs. For too long the government has been clinging to a system which encourages dependence and frustrates independence. It is a system which places untenable demands upon the American taxpayer. It is a system which ultimately fails because, ultimately, it has no goals.

 

Adoption of a usage-based system which has as its purpose the maximal independence of its recipients is the cornerstone of humanitarian welfare reform for the twenty first century.

 

In order to reduce public reliance on governmental largesse, the United States government, through the Legislative and Executive branches, must adopt a reasoned system to promote the exploration and development of alternative sources of funding for benefits programs and expansion of privatized services.

 

In addition to the reexamination of the underpinnings of the current system which would necessarily occur were the proposals outlined above adopted, as part and parcel of any Humanitarian Welfare Reform Plan it is logical that individuals who might otherwise continue to rely on the current system be offered incentives, in the form of tax reductions and rebates, for assuming the expenses and responsibilities of structured investment in income transfer program alternatives.

 

Such alternatives may include, but not necessarily be limited to, investment in life insurance policies, mutual funds, and other capital producing vehicles, the avails of which can ultimately be placed into specialized income trusts for the benefit of the disabled beneficiary. Such income trusts, known as Special Needs Trusts, are presently structured so as to allow disabled beneficiaries access to funds which would otherwise impair their eligibility for governmental benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other support programs.

 

Through judicious use of the currently existing Special Needs Trust combined with creative tax planning advantages, the government will ultimately reduce the reliance of the American populace on an overburdened, under funded social Welfare system, in favor of further expansion of the private sector, which would ultimately be felt in all sectors of the National economy. 

 

A universal need of all caregivers, families and special needs consumers is crisis management respite care. A realignment of present benefit distributions would permit the widespread development of a coherent respite service provider system in localities throughout the United States. 

 

THEREFORE, The National Special Needs Network encourages the exploration and adoption of such a system as an answer to the pressing question of public welfare reform in the United States of America. 

 

Respectfully submitted,

Jeffrey H. Minde, Esq.

President/National Special Needs Network, Inc.

 

L. Jerry Cohn, Esq.

Chief Counsel (Fmr.), Civil Rights Division

National Special Needs Network Foundation, Inc.

 

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