NABWIS History

Taking a look back...

The National Association for Work Incentive and Benefits Specialists (NABWIS) was founded in 2007 by three individuals who were determined to make benefits planners a vital part of an individual with a disability's return to work as well as a true profession. Susan Daniels, former Associate Commissioner of SSA, Dr. Thomas Golden, Executive Director of the Yang Tan Institute, and Mary Ridgely, former Director of ERI, Wisconsin, met in Baltimore and decided a trade organization or help bring benefits planners together was the way to begin. The year was 2007, and a volunteer Board of 13 members was recruited.

NABWIS was formally incorporated in the State of Indiana in 2009. Membership began with 12 members and the volunteer Board. Initial work focused on efforts to show SSA and the Congress how important benefits planning was to any recipient of benefits based on disability who wanted to return to work. While this important work was underway, membership growth began. Dr. Thomas Golden served as the first NABWIS president.

Amina Donna-Kruck, of Arizona, was then elected to the presidency of the still growing and blossoming NABWIS. During Amina's final term as President NABWIS grew to an organization of over 300 members and it's new Board was determined to hold its first National Conference. This Conference was held in Columbus, OH and was a complete success. Amina presided over the Conference while Dr. Golden gave our first keynote address. Speakers from across the nation were selected by the conference committee to address the 250 benefits planners who attended from across the nation. Planners from Hawaii to Maine attended. The quality of speakers, addressing all aspects of planning services, financial literacy and how to take care of oneself while doing this job, helped make the conference a great success.

Success Is Near

After a group "whew!", the conference committee began planning the second conference, also held in Columbus. Under NABWIS' third President, Raymond Cebula, J.D., new committees were formed to organize membership, the conference, Board governance and legislative education. The second national conference echoed the success of the first and was graced with a keynote presentation given by Marie Strahan, J.D., formerly of SSA Baltimore and now, while retired, a strong advocate for return to work efforts. Again, reviews for the this conference were exemplary and revealed that the continuing opportunity for planners from across the country to meet together and the quality of speakers continued to be beneficial and of high quality.

The 2019 National Conference saw Josh Basile, J.D., present the keynote address. Attorney Basile, a strong advocate for "life" and a person with a disability, inspired every one of the 250 attendees with a story of perseverance in the face of adversary. Once again, the Board sat to review exceptional reviews of speakers and the access to other planners. This meeting also saw the first Director's round table which allowed Directors from across the country to share notes and experiences.

Currently NABWIS is in the process of enhancing our services to members. A new website and membership site has been developed to automate many of the systems still which were still being completed by hand. The volunteer Board has hired the assistance of a bookkeeper to assist our Treasurer maintain our books and keep our budget in order. And, of course, a 4th National Conference is being planned. We will leave Columbus for another site and will continue to bring our members, now approaching 400, together to enjoy education and the shared experience of benefits planning.

As our organization continues to grow and improve, we look forward to working to create a larger presence before SSA and Congress in order to support, continue and expand our work.

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