Thursday, April 29, 2010

Project Access – Austin Physician Program Offers Low Income Residents of Travis County Health Care Free of Charge

On April 27, 2010 we attended a conference in Austin, Texas designed to address disability issues and discovered a valuable local program, Project Access Austin. This is a philanthropic program wherein the Travis County Medical Society Foundation provides coordinated health care, essentially free of charge for low-income, uninsured residents of Travis County.
Claimants applying for SSA are often in a bind. Unable to work, disabled and in need of health care, they face waiting periods of months if not years. Where do such applicants turn for health care? Approximately one-third of the Travis County Medical Society Foundation members provide volunteer services for individuals with low incomes (including those applying for but not currently receiving disability benefits).
Individuals applying for enrollment must provide documentation to ensure they meet eligibility criteria. Subsequently, applicants sign a patient responsibility agreement that requires them to be on time for appointments, follow the physician's treatment plans, and inform the program if there are changes in income, address and/or phone numbers. Eligibility includes Travis County residence for six months, US citizen or legal permanent residence. The applicant must have no medical insurance, or be unable to afford medical insurance and, may not be currently eligible for governmental assistance. Thus, an individual who receives SSA disability would likely be ineligible. However, it appears they would be eligible during the application periods (contact the program for more specifics).
Income limits are based on Federal Poverty guidelines or below. Federal Poverty Limits are roughly annual earnings of $11,000 for an individual, $14,500 for a couple and $ 22,000 for a family of four. The program allows for income of up to 200% of these figures. We congratulate the Travis County Medical Association for this innovative and compassionate initiative and ongoing advocacy. The initial application consists of a 3-page form in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded from the website at Applicants may also contact the program volunteers at (512) 206-1164, or mail to Project Access PO Box 4679 Austin, TX 78765.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Commissioner Astrue Speaking of Compassionate Allowances

This program is a win win. SSA should continue to look at fast tracking. If adequately staffed in the field offices and implemented by properly trained personnel in the state medical agencies, such initiatives help avoid repeated applications and other logistical confusion facing claimants. Small steps, smartly taken make more sense than overwhelming plans of agency redesign.

Social Security commissioner: We can fast-track help

by Michael J. Astrue - Jan. 26, 2010 09:56 AM
Special for The Republic

I recently hosted the agency's fifth public hearing on Compassionate Allowances.

I was joined on the panel by Philip Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H., National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, and Social Security Executives.
Click here to find out more!

We heard testimony from some of the nation's leading experts on schizophrenia about possible methods of identifying and implementing Compassionate Allowances for young adults with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a devastating disease that affects more than two million Americans, primarily individuals in their teens and twenties. The onset of schizophrenia has life-changing consequences, which can include unemployment and homelessness. This hearing will help us to potentially identify the most severe cases and consider bringing them under our Compassionate Allowances umbrella.

In October 2008, Social Security launched Compassionate Allowances to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants with medical conditions so severe that their conditions by definition meet Social Security's standards.

To learn more and to view a web cast of November's hearing, go to

Our Compassionate Allowances and Quick Disability Determinations processes are making a real difference by ensuring that Americans with devastating disabilities quickly receive the benefits they need. This fiscal year, we expect to fast-track about 150,000 cases and we plan to add more diseases and impairments to these expedited processes in the coming months.

Michael J. Astrue is the Social Security Commissioner.