CareerACCESS Goes to Washington


The CareerACCESS team is proud to share that we spent a productive, rewarding week in Washington, D.C. connecting with policymakers, youth activists, and supporters of Social Security reform.

NCIL workshop panel

From left to right, Dara Baldwin, Ed Lorenzen, Andy Arias, Angel Miles, Daniel Mellenthin, Rebecca Cokley, and Justin Harford. All are seated at a table in the midst of presenting during a NCIL workshop.

To start off the week, on July 27th we participated in a workshop at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) conference, “Reforming the Social Security Definition of Disability,” with an incredible line-up of activists:

  • Rebecca Cokley, Executive Director, National Council on Disability
  • Ed Lorenzen, Senior Advisor, Committee for a Responsible Federal
  • Dara Baldwin, Public Policy Analyst, National Disability Rights Network
  • Panel Facilitator – Justin Harford
  • Panelists – Daniel Mellenthin, Andy Arias, and Angel Miles

This well-attended event gave direction to the week ahead as we moved forward to the next big event on July 28th, a Congressional Briefing hosted by the National Council on Disability (NCD), “Re-imagining the Social Security System for the 21st Century.” The briefing included two powerful panels. The first was facilitated by NCD’s Legislative Analyst, Phoebe Ball, featuring the same panelists who had participated in the NCIL workshop. They eloquently shared their personal experiences and frustrations with the current Social Security system and their efforts to pursue successful careers.

youth activists at congressional briefing

From left to right: Phoebe Ball, Angel Miles, Andy Arias, Daniel Mellenthin, and Justin Harford presenting on their personal experiences with Social Security.

The second panel was a response and reflection on the stories shared by the first panelists. It was facilitated by the Former Principal Deputy Administrator of the Administration for Community Living, Henry Claypool, and featured renowned policymakers including:

  • David Weaver, Associate Commissioner for Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support, Social Security Administration
  • Sharon Lewis, Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Janet LaBreck, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education
  • Taryn Mackenzie Williams, Acting Chief of Staff, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor
Congressional Briefing Policymaker panel

From left to right, Janet LaBreck, Taryn Mackenzie Williams, Sharon Lewis, David Weaver, and Henry Claypool on a panel at the Congressional Briefing.

To read coverage of these panels, you are welcome to view the archive of Tweets created by the National Council on Disability below:

Following the NCIL workshop and the Congressional Briefing, members of the team advocated for the importance of CareerACCESS and educated members of both parties about the initiative during several meetings on Capitol Hill, thus demonstrating that Social Security reform is truly a bipartisan issue.

CareerACCESS on the Hill

Members of the CareerACCESS team on Capitol Hill.


CareerACCESS founder Neil Jacobson recounts the numerous meetings we attended as great successes. He shares the following insights about the work done by CareerACCESS while in D.C.:

“I was most excited to learn that the NCIL member delegation from Michigan had met with 13 of their 16 Member Congressional delegation and/or their staff informing them about CareerACCESS and Michigan’s interests to  pilot the program.  Bryon was an invited participant when the Michigan NCIL members presented CareerACCESS to staff for House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI). I was also excited to hear that when Bryon, Amina Kruck and April Reed met with Representative Tom Reed (R-NY), the Congressman expressed interest in assisting us. Meeting with Rosemary Lahasky was very encouraging. She staffs the Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee which is the House SSI subcommittee of jurisdiction. She  indicated there is a desire to pilot and demonstrate programs like CareerACCESS. She will follow up and provide more background on the statutory waivers required for our pilot.  We heard similar things when we met with Ted McCann and Amy Shuart, who staff the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. They also told us about Social Impact Bonds as a possible way to fund pilots. The CareerACCESS Core Team briefed  Maura Corrigan on CareerACCESS features and the Michigan interest in being a pilot project state. Maura is the former Michigan Department of Health Services (DHS) Director, now visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, with ties to  Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.

It was wonderful having Jack Mills from the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Bob Friedman and David Newville from The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) and Zach Morrow from National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) join us at the NCD Congressional Hearing. We spoke afterwards about working together to move this agenda forward and possible funding opportunities.

Meeting with Social Security Advisory Board Members and staff, and hearing 3 of its Board members respond positively to the CareerACCESS ideas we presented was very bolstering. Similarly, meeting with Marty Ford and TJ Sutcliffe from The ARC and hearing that they too were most interested reinforced my belief that this is the right time to fully develop and pilot CareerACCESS.

NCIL members and others have reported out from the week’s activities that CA, TN, NE, and MN have expressed interest in being a CareerACCESS pilot project state. Follow-up on these developments is being planned.

Finally, on August 4th, with 170 people in attendance at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget SSDI  Proposal Initiative Conference, and over 900 people listening to it, Stephanie read the speech I had written summarizing the paper Anita Aaron, Aya Aghabi Barbara Butz and I are writing. ‘Exploring an Alternative Definition of Disability’ incorporates many of the same principles as CareerACCESS. Being 1 of 12 papers presented, it was great receiving positive feedback.”

Our time in Washington, D.C. has energized CareerACCESS to continue moving forward to enact real change and we need YOU to get involved! As Neil notes,

“Now is the time to seriously move CareerACCESS forward, to fully develop all of its components, pilot it in 3 to 5 states and show its effectiveness. Now is the time to Go! Go! Go!”

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