Saturday, March 31, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
If you have been receiving Social Security benefits because of your disability, you may have questions about reapplying and about any earned income. You will need to reapply for your Social Security benefits upon turning 18 under new medical standards designed for adults, and you may continue to be eligible for Social Security benefits through work incentives program. If you do not qualify for benefits after the age 18 review, you may file an appeal within 10 days to continue receiving benefits until the appeal has been resolved (Bellil et al. 15). Some students are afraid that if they go to work after turning 22, they will lose their disability benefits yet not make enough money to support themselves. This chapter will focus on how you can utilize your benefits to your advantage when you go to work.
Long-Bellil, Melanie Jordan, and Linda Landry (2010) produced an excellent booklet for parents and students detailing the Social Security benefits for Massachusetts recipients. They state that there are two types of social security benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). To qualify for SSI, you must be disabled and have a low income below $1,000 per month or a resource limit of $2,000. Your parents resources are counted if you are under 18, and you are allowed a resource limit of $3,000 if you are married. People who are blind do not need to meet this requirement. Under SSI, you will receive Medicaid/MassHealth benefits. When you begin to earn money, the state will gradually reduce your cash benefits, but your MassHealth coverage continues until your earnings are above $36, 133 in 2010 ($36, 982 for people who are blind). SSDI benefits are awarded to those who are disabled, have earnings below the level of $1,000 per month ($1, 640 for people who are blind), and previously worked or paid Social Security Taxes. If you are working, your benefits will cease. People who receive SSDI benefits also qualify for Medicaid coverage, which stays in effect for up to 7.5 years. Social Security provides an additional benefit for adults with disabilities whose parents have worked enough to qualify called the Child Disability Benefit (CDB). This benefit provides for individuals who were disabled before turning 22, are at least 18 years of age and, since turning 22, have never earned money of $1,000 per month or more ($1, 640 for people who are blind). To receive these benefits, you must also be unmarried or married to someone else you receives CBD or SSDI benefits, and the child of a person who worked and is now deceased or who gets Social Security retirement or disability benefits. CBD beneficiaries receive Medicaire, but their benefits are based upon their parents work records, rather than their own. If you receive CBD benefits, you fall under different rules for getting back on CBD after you have earned income through work.
When you find a job and your earnings begin to increase and you receive SSI, your Social Security benefits will go decrease. Social Security uses a formula applied to your gross income (before taxes) to determine the decrease in your Social Security benefits. Social Security subtracts the first $85 of your wages and then divides the remainder of your Gross Monthly Earnings by 2 to equal your countable income. Then, they subtract that countable income from your original SSI check to determine your Adjusted SSI monthly payment while working (Bellil, et al, 4). Often, while your SSI payment will be smaller, your monthly income actually increases because only half of your wage earnings are counted in the deduction formula. You should note that often SSI benefits coupled with your wages means that you actually have more money at your disposal each month, not less, since SSI deducts only half of your gross income from your monthly benefits payment. Under a program called 1619(a), you will also keep your MassHealth benefits as long as you stay below the SSI resource limit. Some people will earn enough money so that their Social Security benefits reach zero dollars per month. This is called the break-even point, and once you reach the break-even point, your cash benefits stop (Bellil, et al, 2010). Under the 1619(b) program, you will keep your MassHealth coverage until your annual earnings reach $36, 133 ($36, 982 if you are blind) and your resources must stay below the allowable SSI income of $2,000/month ($3,000 if you are married) by using work incentives. Also, SSDI uses a trial work period (TWP) of nine months that can be spread out over 60 months in which your earnings were over $720/month. You will receive a check for the first three months as a grace period and then receive additional checks for each month during the next three years in which your income falls below $720/month as part of the SSDI Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE).
Work incentives include Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWEs) and the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) (Bellil et al, 6) provide an additional resource for Social Security Beneficiaries who have begun or returned work . IRWEs exclude costs for items and services you need in order to work (Bellil et al 11). Perhaps you require transportation, job coaching, or medical advice. You may need medication or therapy to manage your disability enough so that you can work. Your local Social Security Office will determine if any of your out-of-pocket, disability-related expenses qualify as work-related expenses and deduct these from your earnings before applying their formula to determine your benefit eligibility. The PASS plan allows an SSI recipient aged 15 or older to save money toward a vocational goal (Bellil et al. 12). Money set aside for these vocational goals does not count toward your $2,000 limit and may include transportation, education, and clothing costs. You may plan to start a business or to earn a degree to increase your earning potential. You submit a Pass application to your local SSA office, and the Social Security Administration approves these expenditures in eighteen-month blocks. Also, if you are a person who is blind, you can exclude your work-related expenses from your gross income. These expenditures need not be disability-related and fall under the Blink Work Expenses (BWE) exception (Bellil et al. 13).
Many students have expressed concern about Social Security when they contemplate their vocational goals and dreams. They worry that their earned income will not support them in the beginning and that a loss of Social Security benefits will leave them financially disadvantaged. The Social Security Administration has provided a variety of strong programs to prevent financial barriers to individuals with disabilities gaining independence.
Long―Bellil, Linda; Jordan, Melanie; and Landry, Linda. Going to Work: A Guide to Social Security Benefits and Employment for Young People With Disabilities. Work Without Limits, Publications Office, Institute for Community Inclusions, UMASS Boston, 2010.
Chapter 688 Referrals
Until your twenty-second birthday, the school district provides the majority of your services. Upon your twenty-second birthday, however, the school district abdicates this responsibility to various outside service providers. Chapter 688 is a law that addresses the needs of young adults who will lose entitlement to special education services but will continue to requires services to live as independently as possible due to a severe disability. You are automatically eligible for Ch. 688 services if you are receiving SSI or SSDI benefits from Social Security (We will discuss Social Security in the next chapter) or you are listed in the registry of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. If you are not automatically eligible, you may still be eligible for services if you are 1.) receiving special education services, and 2.) in need of continuing services because of the severity of your disability, and 3.) unable to work 20 or more hours per week in competitive employment. Once the IEP team determines you to be in need of continuing services, they will begin the referral process.
At least two years prior to turning 22, the IEP team will make a referral to an outside agency so that services may be provided to you upon completion of your special education program (Bureau of Transitional Planning, Executive Office of Health and Human Services, web 2 May 2010). You or your legal representative will need to sign a permission form so that the school can make this referral to an outside agency and send them your records and test results. The school district, once you have given permission, will invite representatives of outside agencies to your IEP meetings during the last two years of your secondary school experience to provide for a smooth transition from school to adult services. The human service agency will then write an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) that will include time lines, goals, and objectives to helping you become as independent as possible.
The ITP outlines the day, vocational, residential, and support services you may need and the agencies providing those services. (Bureau of Transitional Planning, web 2 May 2010). Human Services agencies providing services in Massachusetts are the Departments of Mental Health (DMH), Developmental Services (DDS), Social Services (DCFS), Public Health (DPH), and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH), and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (Mass. Rehab.). You may receive services from only one of these agencies. Your IEP team will determine which outside agency best fits your individual needs.
Bureau of Transitional Planning
Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Department of Education
Special Education Planning and Policy Development Office