It's time for the latest NENA E-News!
Your source for news, resources, and advocacy
for your Employment Network (EN)!
May All Calls
Open Meetings May was such a hit last year, we are offering it again this year! Nonmembers will get multiple opportunities to see what NENA can offer because all of our May meetings are open to everyone! If you or someone you know is considering a NENA Membership, please join us to see what NENA is all about.
**Members note: all May meeting links are different that usual.**
Visit the events calendar to register for each call!
Our annual membership drive is also underway! Through our membership drive, we reach out to ENs and State VR agencies who are not currently NENA members to share a bit about NENA and encourage individuals to attend our Quarterly Teleconference on May 24th where the topics include: a NENA Board introduction, updates and conference announcements followed by a panel presentation: The Insiders Guide to Growing your EN Marketing Program.
In addition to all of the other membership perks (and there are a lot!), NENA members have access to discounted conference rates for our Annual National Training Conference. Join by June 30th to qualify for a reduced conference rate (the early-bird-member rate is the lowest).
We look forward to seeing you on May 24th!
News to Know
On April 5th, Employment Networks received the following information regarding Ticketholder Engagement from email@example.com:
The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) program integrity service and supports reviews identified instances where some ENs are not in direct contact with their Ticketholders over extended periods of time. Previous guidance provided only required that the EN document an effort to make contact. As a result, some ENs document attempts to make contact, but have no direct communication with the Ticketholder over prolonged periods of time and are no longer providing services yet continue to have the Ticket assigned.
The intent of the Ticket to Work Program is to provide not only Initial Job Acquisition support services, but also Ongoing Support services through the life of the Ticket to assure the Ticketholder achieves self-sufficiency. Some Ticketholders are receiving CDR protection and in many cases are not making timely progress towards their employment goals. Many of these Tickets should not stay assigned. As a result, SSA is making the following policy clarifications which will be annotated in the next version of the Ticket Program Agreement (TPA).
Part III Section 9.B of the Ticket Program Agreement states that one of the criteria SSA uses for EN evaluation is: employment results for Ticketholders including job placement and retention rates, achievement of timely progress benchmarks, and achievement of financial independence (exit the rolls with earnings at or above SGA).
For Ticketholders who are not actively working towards self-sufficiency and SSA has not paid the EN for that Ticketholder in a 24 consecutive month timeframe, SSA recommends that the EN engage the Ticketholder and make one of the following determinations:
SSA is also clarifying the contact requirements for Ticketholders in both the Initial Job Acquisition Phase and the Ongoing Support Phase of a Ticketholder’s progression toward their career goals. SSA is clarifying the requirements for a successful contact with a Ticketholder as well as the maximum length of time a Ticket may remain in assignment status without successful contact.
During the Initial Job Acquisition Phase (i.e., starting with Ticket Assignment through the end of the Phase 1 Milestone Period) At a minimum, the EN shall follow-up with the Ticketholder monthly to verify Ticketholder progress and maintain records of these contacts. This is defined as two-way communication and shall be any of the following acceptable mediums in which the Ticketholder provides a response: in-person meeting, a telephone conversation, personalized email messages, voicemail message received by the Ticketholder, personalized text messages, any form of computerized or telephone app communication (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype, etc.), and personalized letters to and from individuals. The EN shall document the method of communication and, where possible, retain any evidence available of the communication and provide this evidence during program integrity reviews if requested. The EN shall make a minimum of three attempts in a one-month period to make two-way contact with the Ticketholder. In the event the EN does not have a two-way conversation with the Ticketholder, or the Ticketholder requests no contact, the EN shall unassign the Ticket within 60 days from the date of initial contact attempt.
During the Ongoing Support Phase (i.e., Starting with the Phase 2 Milestone Period through Ticket Unassignment) At a minimum, the EN shall contact and communicate with the Ticketholder quarterly to determine if the Ticketholder requires any ongoing employment supports and, where possible, maintain records of these communications, including the method of communication. This two-way contact shall be in the form of any of the methods of communication described above. The EN shall make a minimum of three attempts in a three-month period to make two-way contact with the Ticketholder. In the event the EN does not have a two-way communication with the Ticketholder, or the Ticketholder requests no further contact, the EN shall unassign the Ticket within 180 days from the date of initial contact attempt.
SSA is asking ENs to review their current Ticket assignments to ensure that they are within the parameters of this guidance. ENs shall either make contact with the Ticketholder to reengage them in the Ticket Program or unassign the Ticket. SSA will begin incorporating random reviews to ensure adherence to this guidance into our current Service and Support reviews beginning August 1, 2023.
These requirements will be annotated in Part III, Section 4 of the TPA. Effective As of this date, all ENs must abide by these requirements.
Please direct any questions about this policy to ENService@ssa.gov.
NENA SSA Call Recap - 3/29/23
On March 29, 2023 NENA board members met virtually with Robert Pfaff, Director – Office of Research, Demonstration and Employment Support for the Social Security Administration, and seven other Social Security Administration (SSA) Representatives. As a board we are committed to continuing our commitment to excellence in providing training and technical support to members, creating opportunities for connection and collaboration, maintaining a strong working relationship with the Social Security Administration and the Ticket Program Manager. NENA Board Members identified several topics based on feedback from NENA Members to discuss such as field office operations, TPM training processes, new Service and Supports review requirements, Partnership Plus, and SSA’s Marketing Program.
NENA asked how Employment Networks (ENs) can better facilitate processes with SSA field offices. We shared concerns we have heard from many ENs regarding the timely production of BPQY reports, flaws in wage reporting processes that result in Ticketholder records not being updated timely, and field offices providing mixed messages regarding the validity of the Ticket to Work Program. SSA has requested that we provide specific examples of which field offices are not following processes, in hopes they can reach out to those offices to provide further training and outreach. Stay tuned to future newsletters and website updates for a place for ENs to track these issues so they can be shared with SSA on a timely basis.
We also had the opportunity to ask about the Portal Announcement regarding the SSA-222 forms. We were informed that they are attempting to make this process more systematic and that portal access should not be restricted for those who submitted their SSA-222 following the proper directions provided for this year.
When asked about EN staff receiving required training in a timely manner for portal access, we were advised that there is a plan to update training modules to expedite the process for anyone with a business need to access the portal. Requests to advance through the modules should be responded to with in a day or two.
SSA also reiterated that if an individual does not access the portal for 180 days they will be deleted entirely and will need to go through the foundation training again. A recommendation was made to have all portal users sign in every 90 days to maintain access.
An update on the current structure of ENService was provided. SSA reported that the current structure includes 5 staff and a manager with no plans to hire any additional staff at this time, however they have a plan to ensure coverage of inboxes is streamlined should staff be out. SSA employees also ensured us that the TTW Help Line Call Center can and should provide TTW eligibility information. Any unresolved questions should be emailed to ENService with a request to bring the issue to SSA management attention.
The Payments Manager was not on the call but NENA was directed to send specific questions to the payments helpdesk or bring to the All EN Payments call. SSA reported that they anticipate the next epay cycle will run in June or July. Rob also cited a large number of pending payments to ENs and indicated that if this is a trend, they will have to reassess resources related to the payment process. He commended ENs for their progress as this data shows that the program is working.
NENA and SSA also discussed that Partnership Plus agreement processes vary widely from state to state. This is an issue when providing proof of an agreement in order to be recognized as a Partnership Plus EN on the Choose Work website. SSA suggested an email from SSA be sent to VR’s without Partnership Plus written agreements requesting they identify EN’s they partner with.
Lastly, the NENA Board discussed the Marketing Program. Rob Pfaff stated that the .5% required for participation in the Marketing Program is reasonable and attainable for all EN’s. He said that it is not feasible for the one SSA staff who runs the program to provide the files unless the minimum assignment rates are reached. SSA stipulates that unless EN’s plan to grow with the program including hiring staff and increasing resource allocation, they should consider if they are appropriate participants.
The NENA Board hopes to continue conversations regarding these topics and would love to hear from you about other topics we can address. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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