Our story

Scroll through more than 25 years of change that matters.

Smart Policy Works was founded in 1992 – during the era of welfare reform – with the sole purpose of improving access to public benefits programs and preserving the integrity of the Social Security Disability Income programs. Our work has grown exponentially since then, but we work today toward the same purpose: to break down economic, social, and structural barriers to health and well-being.



NCHSD logoA technical assistance partnership, the National Consortium for Health Systems Development provided state-tailored aid for projects to develop comprehensive health and employment service systems for people with disabilities.

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Project Access

The project was a collaboration with Chicago-area hospitals to increase access to public benefit programs and improve health outcomes of children with severe disabilities hospitalized in neo-natal intensive care units.

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Ticket to Work

Ticket to Work logoThe SSI Coalition played a role in the development, passage, and implementation of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, the most significant disability employment law since the ADA.

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Without a Net

Cover of Without a Net reportThe first published study attempting to track the impact of cuts to SSI and SSDI on people whose primary disability was substance addiction, this research created a basis for the Coalition’s advocacy.

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The 100% Campaign

Initiated by the SSI Coalition and the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, the campaign increased Medicaid income eligibility in Illinois from 42% of the federal poverty level to 100%, giving access to 200,000 low-income individuals.

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President Clinton signs the PRWORAThe Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, portrayed as a major welfare reform, eliminated eligibility for SSI for millions of noncitizens, including legal permanent residents and refugees.

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Era of Welfare Reform

During the Clinton-era push for welfare reform, congressional attacks targeted SSI and SSDI for people with substance use disorders, among the first populations for whom the SSI Coalition would advocate. The coalition also fought to preserve access to Medicaid for Illinois’ general assistance population.

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