Equip for Equality is New Resource for Illinois Social Security Beneficiaries Trying to get Work or Return to Work
Ticket to Work Program Underway
CHICAGO (Feb. 8, 2002) - Equip for Equality (EFE) has launched a new project called Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS), a federally funded initiative to provide advice to Social Security beneficiaries on their rights to obtain or return to work, as well as advocacy services on their behalf. The PABSS project also conducts training seminars for people with disabilities, their family members, employers, and service providers and agencies, on employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act.
As the governor-designated Protection and Advocacy System (P&A) for people with mental and physical disabilities in Illinois, Equip for Equality derives its authority for establishing the PABSS program from a provision of the Ticket to Work legislation, which allows the Social Security Administration to provide funding to P&As nationwide for this purpose.
Beginning this month, Social Security participants will receive a paper document ("ticket"), which entitles them to choose their own vocational rehabilitation provider from an employment network of public and private providers. If dissatisfied with their selection, they have the option to change providers. In Illinois, 10 percent of those eligible will receive tickets in February, 20 percent in April, 30 percent in May and 40 percent in June. Equip for Equality will be able to help ticket recipients identify employment networks in Illinois.
"We are optimistic that the Ticket to Work Act will provide Social Security beneficiaries with meaningful choices for vocational rehabilitation services, and ultimately, will result in an increase in the employment rate of people with disabilities," says EFE's Legal Advocacy Director Barry C. Taylor. "Equip for Equality anticipates becoming a valuable resource to assist Social Security beneficiaries in understanding their rights under this new legislation."
Named as PABSS Project Manager for Equip for Equality is attorney John V. Coburn, who brings extensive experience with Social Security issues and working with under-served populations to his new position. Before joining EFE, he worked for several years as an attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago (LAF) on Social Security and other matters. Most recently, he was involved with LAF's HIV Project, representing people with HIV/AIDS on many problems, including return-to-work and discrimination issues.
Working with Coburn is advocate Cheryl Martin, a certified paralegal with a psychology background, who also worked with LAF where she was employed on the HIV/AIDS Project. She represented clients before the Social Security Administration in disability hearings, assisted in obtaining Public Aid benefits and in writing briefs supporting client disability claims.
Equip for Equality is the only comprehensive statewide advocacy organization providing self-advocacy assistance, legal services, education, public policy advocacy and abuse investigations. As the private, not-for-profit entity designated by the Governor to administer the federal Protection and Advocacy System, the organization has broad statutory powers to safeguard the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities, including developmental disabilities and mental illnesses.
For detailed information on PABSS program advocacy services and training seminars, visit the PABSS section of EFE's website or call PABSS advocate Cheryl Martin at 312-341-0022, 800-537-2632 or TTY 800-610-2779.