Smart Policy Works’ origin – the SSI Coalition

The organization that ultimately became Smart Policy Works grew out of the Chicagoland SSI Coalition, formed as a part of the national “Appeal to Conscience” campaign.

The organization that became Health & Disability Advocates, and subsequently SPW, grew out of the “Chicagoland SSI Coalition,” a group established in response to recommendations from the SSI Modernization Report, issued in 1992. The group was one of 17 created with seed money from the Villers Family Foundation as a part of the national “SSI Appeal to Conscience” campaign, which aimed to educate stakeholders about the critical role Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid play in the lives of persons with disabilities and older adults.

The coalition focused on improving access to Supplemental Security Income, a federal cash assistance program for the low-income elderly and disabled. Working with low-income people of all ages who were disabled, had long-term illnesses, or were elderly to assure security and dignity, it grew to be one of the few collective voices at the local and national levels for organizations and individuals of diverse constituencies and interests committed to preserving and improving programs that assist persons with disabilities. At its peak, the coalition comprised more than 80 social service and advocacy organizations representing the SSI constituency. The Coalition’s activities included in-depth policy analysis, training and technical assistance, direct advocacy and legal advice and representation. Its work established a new advocacy niche and educated the foundation community on the growing social service and policy advocacy needs of SSI recipients.

The Chicago Community Trust became our first local funder.

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