TANF and SSI: Opportunities Exist to Help People with Impairments Become More Self-Sufficient

GAO-04-878 Published: Sep 15, 2004. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2004.
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The nation's social welfare system has been transformed into a system emphasizing work and personal responsibility, primarily through the creation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has expanded policies to help recipients improve self-sufficiency. Given that SSA data indicate an overlap in the populations served by TANF and SSI, and the changes in both programs, this report examines (1) the extent that TANF recipients with impairments are encouraged to apply for SSI and what is known about how SSI caseload growth has been affected by such TANF cases, (2) the extent that work requirements are imposed on TANF recipients applying for SSI, and the range of services provided to such recipients, and (3) the extent that interactions exist between the SSI and TANF programs to assist individuals capable of working to obtain employment.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Social Security Administration To help individuals with impairments become more self-sufficient and toaddress the gap in continuous work services between the TANF and SSI programs, SSA, as part of a new demonstration project, should work with TANF offices to develop screening tools, assessments, or other data that would identify those TANF recipients with impairments who while potentially eligible for SSI may also be capable of working. Once these recipients have been identified, the TANF offices and SSA could work together to coordinate aggressive medical care and employment-related services that would help the individual obtain employment and achieve or at least increase self-sufficiency.
Closed – Implemented
SSA initially did not have plans for a demonstration project involving TANF and SSI, but believed it could benefit both of these groups of individuals. SSA said it will be pleased to work with HHS to plan and design such a project. In 2007, SSA conducted research on this issue to determine whether a demonstration project would be viable. The agency concluded that a demonstration project would be feasible and has plans to develop a demonstration project. In 2008, SSA reported that it entered into data sharing agreements with 5 states to collect information to identify TANF recipients who may be eligible for SSI and who may also be capable of working. In addition, SSA entered into an interagency agreement with HHS to help obtain these agreements. SSA will use the results of this analysis to determine if there are any interventions to test in the demo project.
Department of Health and Human Services In order to facilitate and encourage a sharing of information among TANF offices regarding the development of interactions with SSA that might increase self-sufficiency of recipients with impairments, HHS should provide space on its Web site to serve as a clearinghouse for information regarding best practices and opportunities for TANF agencies to interact with SSA. This would allow state and county TANF officials to share information on what they are doing, what works, and how to go about establishing relationships with SSA. It would also provide states and counties with access to the research of federal agencies, state and county offices, and other researchers that they may need in order to develop a strong functional relationship with SSA and help TANF recipients with impairments move toward economic independence. HHS should be able to minimize its work and expense by using its Web site to share this information.
Closed – Implemented
In June 2005, HHS added to its Welfare Peer Technical Assistance Network website a resource category entitled "Disabilities and SSI." Research findings and innovative program reports are now available on this website. In addition, state and local agencies may ask operational questions and receive responses and advice from their peers.

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