PROMISE Initiative

Thank you for your interest in the PROMISE initiative. This program is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Labor. Please go to our PROMISE Web page for further information on this initiative.

We want your input on how we implement the major elements of this program. We encourage all interested parties to share their comments with us. In commenting on these documents, we encourage potential applicants to identify barriers in current federal programs that may impede implementation of an ambitious, high-quality PROMISE plan.

Again, thank you for your interest in this opportunity to support youth receiving SSI and their families. We look forward to hearing from you.


  1. In response to part of Thomas’ comments, I would like to discuss the issue of helping the individuals understand their benefits and work incentives. I am the director of the WIPA project for Maryland. This project will be coming to a close shortly because Congress has not yet re-authorized SSA to continue funding the program nationwide. We have been, for the last several years, been providing detailed assistance to individuals who receive SSI (and/or SSDI) who want to work.
    If this initiative can incorporate the services that WIPA used to do, it could make the whole project much more successful. In my experience, if people do not have the accurate information before they take action, either they will not pursue work or they will find themselves in trouble with their benefits.
    There are a great many Community Work Incentives Coordinators who are looking for work now that WIPA is ending. It may be a good opportunity for this initiative to look into hiring some of them.

  2. I worked on Cornell University’s scope of work in the recent Comprehensive Employment Systems Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG). Through that grant, New York State was able to dramatically increase the number of adult individuals with a disability who returned to work. When the grant began in 2009, less than 4000 individuals were taking advantage of the Medicaid Buy-in for Working People With Disabilities (MBI-WPD) program. As of May 2012, over 10,500 individuals with disabilities were taking advantage of the MBI-WPD program. Through the life of the MIG, New York State also doubled the numbers of individuals with disabilities participating in a Plan For Achieving Self-Support (PASS).

    This program has the potential to have the same impact on transition-aged youth in New York. We welcome it with open arms.

    Finally, I wish to echo the comments made by Thomas and ray above.

  3. PROMISE “promises” to respond directly to current concerns expressed by the GAO regarding training and return to work efforts and the lack of coordination and unnecessary overlap that currently exists among the various agencies providing these services, Transition services have always been lacking, however services that will take a child with a disability and turn that child into a worker with a disability are critically necessary to development and independence. Focusing on FAMILIES rather than just the child is the only way for these efforts to succeed. Families must take the “journey to work” together and fully understand how work will positively impact family dynamics as well as positively benefit the child transitioning to a successful adulthood.

  4. This initiative is way overdue, and am so pleased to see that SSA, RSA and DOE are partnering to create real opportunities for transition-aged youth who receive SSI. As you proceed I want to encourage you to keep several things in the forefront:

    1. Financial literacy and sustainability are critical elements of the policy puzzle that must be addressed if we are going to encourage this generation of youth to become more economically secure. The asset limitations imposed by SSI encourage youth to minimize their assets, fostering continued reliance on public benefits. This is a policy quagmire that must be addressed and waivers sought–similar to waivers under the State Partnership Initiatives, Youth Transition Program, and Benefit Offset Demonstrations that SSA has/is conducting.

    2. The issue of where youth and families will get important benefits and work incentives information is a challenge that needs to be addressed. Having worked for over 15 years in this arena as it relates to transition systems change, schools have been widely dependent on SSA’s WIPA programs. With authorization for these services not being renewed, it leaves a huge capacity and skill gap in communities that needs to be addressed. While the US Department of Labor has rolled out the Disability Employment Initiative, and some of these personnel have received training toward this end, they are not providing the comprehensive array of services needed, and further are exclusively working with adults in most states. Addressing this human and systems capacity issue must be addressed in the design of this initiative.

    3. Section 301 of the Social Security Act is an important stay-in-school incentive that must be emphasized. It provides an important incentive for students to connect early to State/Federal VR, and provides an important safety net for students during their SSI age 18 redetermination. In my experience, it is the one incentive that schools know the least about, and that students could benefit from the most. This incentive coupled with the Student-Earned Income Exclusion provide students their best tools for preparing for adult living, learning and earning, and potentially provide them an important economic leg up.

    4. One of the biggest challenges is going to be learning best how to support families. In financially destitute families, a child’s SSI check is a lifeline. It can become a motivator for keeping the child dependent on the benefit, and serve as an inhibitor to future career preparation and employment.

    I could go on with several more considerations. However, recognize a blog should be short. Thank you for this opportunity to provide some thoughts and inputs. We look forward here in NYS to supporting this timely and critical initiative which comes on the coat tails of completion of our recent Comprehensive Employment Systems Medicaid Buy In grant.

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