Edwin J Lopez-SotoExtension Associate
Edwin J Lopez-Soto spent a total of 24 years working with legal services and the premier statewide support center in the country, the Greater Upstate Law Project, before joining the faculty of the Employment and Disability Institute. He began working with Southern Tier Legal Services in Bath, New York as a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellow. Two years later, he moved to the city of Rochester and joined the Monroe County Legal Services Corporation serving as the Supervising Attorney of the Public Benefits and Disability Benefits units. In 1985, he joined the Greater Upstate Law Project staff where he provided technical assistance and training to New York advocates and attorneys as well as engaging in impact litigation against the Social Security Administration, the Department of the Treasury, the Office of Mental Health and the State of New York.
Ed was part of a workgroup that met with the Social Security Administration (SSA) in an effort obtain better access to services for SSAs customers with limited English proficiency. As a result of the groups' efforts, the agency changed its policies to recognize its responsibility to provide an interpreter when an individual is not able to communicate adequately in English. Additionally, in an effort to obtain more accurate disability determinations, this policy has been extended to the state agencies that make disability determinations for SSA. The Task Force was so successful that it received, from Vice President Gore, the Vice Presidents Government Reinvention Hammer Award for its efforts in forging a vision of how the Social Security Administration should serve members of the public who are non-English speaking or have limited English proficiency.
Over time he became a specialist in post-entitlement and return to work issues. Ed has written extensively on return to work as well as post-entitlement issues. Mr. Lopez-Soto has presented seminars on hundreds of occasions over the past 25 years for legal services attorneys, the private bar, lay advocates, agency personnel and persons with disabilities. Most of the seminars have focused on Social Security, SSI, post-entitlement and return to work issues. It was this aspect of his work that developed into a contractual relationship with the Work Incentive Support Center at Cornell University's ILR School. He became part of the Work Incentive Support team in 2000, and began providing technical assistance, training and advice to benefits specialists and legal advocates in the 16 states and territories associated with the WISC. In February of 2009, Ed joined the Cornell staff and continues to provide training and technical assistance concerning work incentive programming. Ed also serves as an instructor on ytiONLINE, the institute's distance learning program for benefits planners and others interested in learning about the Social Security disability and work incentive programming.
Recently, Ed and his colleague Ray Cebula, completed a new curriculum for work incentive benefits practitioners who provide benefits planning services to youth on SSI between the ages of 16 and 23.