March 23, 2011

Save Interim Disability Assistance

We’ve written before about the District’s Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) program. IDA gives $270 per month to low-income District residents who have severe medical conditions and are waiting for a decision on their application for Social Security disability benefits. The District then gets the money back from the federal government if the Social Security Administration approves the disability benefits application.

The program has already undergone cuts in the number of people it serves, and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute fears it will be slashed further in the Mayor’s proposed 2012 budget, which will be released on April 1. They've produced a video with So Others Might Eat that explains the program and shares some stories:

Indeed, we encourage you to contact Mayor Gray and express your support for IDA. And I'd like to share another story of a Bread for the City client who’s been critically helped by this program.

I represent a client named Ms. B, who has several severe mental illnesses and faces physical challenges as well. Ms. B first applied for Supplemental Security Income in September 2008, and her application has been pending for over two years. Her hearing was in January 2011. While we are still waiting for a decision, we are very optimistic that she will be found disabled, and the District will recover all the IDA Ms. B received.

In the meantime, IDA is Ms. B's lifeline. She did not qualify for any cash assistance program but IDA. She has used her IDA benefits to attend meetings with and make phone calls to her social worker and me. $270 a month doesn’t go far, and Ms. B lives in a homeless shelter, but it covers her toiletries and other important items. Among the most vital are transportation to doctors’ appointments and her pharmacy, since Ms. B takes over 10 different prescription medications, and they frequently change as her doctors attempt to control her symptoms while minimizing side effects.

IDA is just about the most effective $270 per person that the District can spend. It can keep some recipients in their homes or with relatives instead of in homeless shelters. It gives people easier access to their doctors and medications, so they need fewer emergency services. It enables recipients to keep in touch with attorneys who can provide a better chance of winning their Social Security cases, in which case the District recovers the IDA it paid out. And when disabled people get Social Security benefits, the District wins too: recipients spend their federal benefits in our local economy, and they become eligible for federally-funded Medicare.

So what can you do? Contact by email or phone the folks in charge of the Mayor’s budget (as soon as possible — the budget will be released on April 1). Mayor Vincent Gray’s email address is, and his telephone number is (202) 727-6300. The budget director, Eric Goulet, can be contacted at or at (202) 727-3380. Kenneth Evans, the budget office official responsible for the IDA budget, can be reached at or (202) 727-5282. And read our most recent post to learn more about the budget cycle and what else we can do.

IDA makes a difference in Ms. B’s life, and in the lives of more than 1,400 other disabled, low-income District residents. Let’s make sure Mayor Gray knows that.

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