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Program looks to make a difference for SSI recipients and their families

While our nation's economy is finally showing signs of sustained improvement, the employment picture remains murky at best for many people, particularly the young and the disabled.

In recognition of this unfortunate reality, the state of Wisconsin recently announced that it was launching a program designed to help disabled young people improve their skills and marketability to employers, as well as embark upon meaningful and rewarding careers.

The Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income program -- or simply the Wisconsin Promise program -- is funded by a five-year, $32.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Program organizers have indicated that the goal of the program is to sign up roughly 2,000 young people and their families who are currently receiving much-needed assistance for their children via the Supplemental Security Income program.

These 2,000 participants will then be cut in two, randomly assigned by a computer to one of two programs. The first program -- the "usual services group" -- will act as a sort of control group in that participants will access the services and support already available via the state. However, the second program -- the "program group" -- will offer participants an expanded array of services and support specifically designed to help both young people and their families improve their education and employment outcomes.

For example, the program group participants will be enrolled in the state's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and granted access to a variety of services designed to help them explore suitable career and education possibilities, achieve educational goals, build job skills and manage finances.

According to Promise program officials, the effort is about more than just providing disabled young people with the means and the skills to finish school and land a job in a competitive market, but also to combat a cycle of generational poverty.

"This is really to help break that cycle," said a project manager. "If you only focus on the youth and you don't look at the whole family, it is difficult to break that cycle."

While some may scoff at the cost of the Promise program, officials have indicated that if only 100 participants are able to embark on a successful career path, the cost of the grant will be recovered several times over by the savings to the SSI program over the course of their respective working careers.

Here's hoping that this program proves to be a great success and that we start to see similar initiatives throughout the nation, including here in Texas.

If you would like to learn more about the possibility of securing SSI benefits, consider speaking with an experienced attorney dedicated to securing the assistance you deserve.

Source: The Wisconsin State Journal, "Promise program can make a difference," Bob Van Enkenvoort, May 18, 2014

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