Benefits Training

and Consulting


March 8, 2011


Question I am Asked


The purpose of this section of the newsletter is to continue expanding your knowledge of Social Security benefit programs and other benefits received by people with disabilities.  Send me your question(s).


I was at your seminar in Lancaster, PA and I want to know how getting married will affect the SSI when the one individual is on Social Security and the other is on SSI. If getting married will impact their benefits, what should be done to help?


An often asked question.  SSI counts earned income and unearned income when determining how much the person needs in SSI cash benefit.  Title II, generally, only counts earned income. Social Security says a married couple share income.  So part of the title II cash benefit received by the other person is shared with the person on SSI as unearned income, this is known as spouse-to-spouse deeming of income.  The person on SSI will experience a reduction in cash benefit or possibly the loss of SSI eligibility depending on the amount of unearned deemed. In addition, upon marriage they share resources.  The resource amount is $3,000 for a couple.  So eligibility for SSI could also end because of excess resources.  What can be done to help?  There isn’t any specific way to help people in this situation.  They have an important decision to make. As I say in my workshop, “marriage has it’s pluses and minuses.”  


If they were both on title II benefits, marriage would not impact they entitlement to benefits.


I have a question with regard to SSI. I have a gentleman that works on an enclave janitorial crew and makes a "timestudied" wage. The person who had him before me did not do a time study on him and his rate of pay should have been more hourly. I calculated the true amount that was owed to him which ended up to be about $2000.00 owed. Had he had been earning this all along it would not have alerted SSI but because of the error it caused a one lump check to be owed to him. Now SSI is taking money from SSDI to pay it back. He is beside himself over this amount that he has to pay back now. It really isn't his fault but we had to pay him the money that was neglected in one check. Is there anything I can do to help rectify this?


SSI counts wages when they are received.  So in one month, he received $2,000 more in wages, which should have brought his SSI payment to $0 for that month and the two following months.  He would owe those three months of SSI payments back to Social Security.  But in the fourth month he would be eligible for an adjusted SSI cash benefit dependent on the amount of wage in the month after he received in the back wages.  At most, he would owe Social Security for three months of adjusted SSI cash benefits.  Social Security has the authority to garnish the SSDI cash benefit to recoup what is owed in SSI (vise-versa).  If the amount they are garnishing causes financial hardship you can request an adjustment based on evidence of monthly living expenses, or ask for a waiver of overpayment due to financial hardship.

I have a student that was on SSI turned 18 - reapplied and was denied - they [the family] are going through the appeals process - is he entitled to any benefits in the mean time?

The student was denied during the age-18 redetermination process, probably because s/he did not meet the adult medical criteria.  Under Section 301 of the Social Security Act, a student who does not re-qualify at 18 years of age, is eligible for the cash benefit while they remain in school and have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in effect.  Technically, they have not re-qualified for SSI, but the cash benefit will continue until they attain 22 years of age or due process out of the public education program and no longer have a IEP.  This does not prohibit the family from pursuing the appeal.  For further information on Section 301 review the Program Operations Manual System “DI 14505.010 Policy for Section 301 Payments to Individuals Participating in a VR or Similar Program” [Click here]



Social Security

National Demonstration Program Launched

The Social Security Administration launched the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) project in January.  While they will be contacting and recruiting a limited number of title II beneficiaries to voluntarily participate in the project, people can request to participate in this project.  If you are serving a person receiving SSDI and the person has the opportunity to work at a wage above the Substantial Gainful Activity level of $1,000 ($1,640 for statutorily blind) if they are contacted by SSA and offered the opportunity to participate in the project. 


The BOND Project is testing an offset approach to SSDI cash benefits, rather then the current approach of stopping the cash benefit when Cessation of Disability is found after the Trial Work Period.   Essentially, the offset approach will reduce the SSDI cash benefit $1 for every $2 of wage above $1,000 of wage (after the Trial Work Period).  SSA intends to make the adjustment based on the average of twelve months of wage, rather than a monthly adjustment process.  The beneficiaries participating in this project will realize more total income while protecting them entitlement to Medicare.  


The BOND project is available in nine entire states (AL, AZ, CO, DC, ME, NH, VT, WI, and WY) and in parts of ten states (CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, NY, PA, TX, VA, and WV).  The opportunity to participate is based on the zip code of the person’s residence.  For more information contact the BOND Project at 1-877-726-6309.


The Red Book


The 2011 edition of the Red Book - A Guide to Work Incentives is now available in print and online.  It is available in English and Spanish. [Click here]



Legal definitions vary considerably.


I often point out in my workshops and webinars that the key to understanding Social Security benefits is understanding definitions of key words or phrases. 


A person may be considered "disabled" under the Americans with Disabilities Act but not by their state's vocational rehabilitation agency. The following is a sample have how three entities vary in legal definition of "disability":

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.

Social Security: The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Rehabilitation Act: The term "individual with a disability" means any individual who has a physical or mental impairment which for such individual constitutes or results in a substantial impediment to employment and can benefit in terms of an employment outcome from vocational rehabilitation services.



Is Funding for Services Tight?


Many organizations have seen a reduction in service dollars while they are expected to continue to provide the same level of service or more.  (That, by the way, doesn’t work effectively.)  In the past two week gasoline has gone up by a national average of $0.35 per gallon.  Will this reduce the amount of support a person receives on the job?


Many organizations need an additional source of revenue to provide services to people.  What many organizations overlook is some individuals with disability have the ability to pay for some of their own support by using a Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS), or using Impairment-related Work Expenses, or using Blind Work Expenses.


I know this is a sticky point with many people but it has to be raised for consideration in today’s economy.  Recently, I was reviewing a website in one state, which spoke of how thousands of people are being denied services because the state can not afford to expand home and community based services.  Well, that state is in a serious budget deficit, like many others, and money really isn’t available from the traditional revenue streams.  What many states have neglected to look at is how some individuals with disability can afford to cost-share employment supports.


For instance, a person receiving an SSDI or CDB cash benefit up to $700 a month and wanting employment services to find a job can easily afford to put aside $680 a month into a PASS to purchase job development and job coaching services.  By putting this money into a PASS the person could qualify for SSI (and Medicaid) in the amount $674 a month.  When the math is done the person would have $694 to live on and $680 in the bank for the purchase of SSA-approved services and items.   In another example, a person on SSI who is working part-time at a wage of $500 per month, but desiring a better job, could easily afford put aside $200 a month in a PASS for the additional supports s/he needs to attain the employment goal and continue to live on the adjusted SSI cash benefit and wage. 


Once employment has been attained, some beneficiaries could purchase job retention supports by claiming Impairment-related Work Expenses (which are also a tax deduction). 


I realize this idea doesn’t meet every person’s need for services, but it should be explored for the appropriate candidates.  Enabling individuals with disability means give them the opportunity to chose, and this is a choice of how services can be acquired and funded.  Please send me your questions or comments.


New Webinar


Earlier this month, I published a new webinar, “Social Security Benefits and School-to-Work Transition.”  The feedback has been very positive.  This webinar covers the tile II (Social Security) and the title XVI (SSI) benefits a student, from 15 to 21, may be entitled or eligible to receive from Social Security. It explains how earned income affects each benefit and related medical benefits. The work incentives available in each program are covered, particularly the Student Earned Income Exclusion. Tasks to enhance communication with Social Security are also covered.


All the webinars are available at any time, simply register, pay the registration fee, and view.  To access this new webinar and others -  [Click here].



Upcoming Workshops


March 14, 2011   Tacoma, WA         "Benefits and Employment in 2011"

March 15, 2011   Tacoma, WA         “Beyond the Basics of Social Security Benefits”

March 16, 2011   Seattle, WA           "Benefits and Employment in 2011"

March 17, 2011   Burlington, WA     "Benefits and Employment in 2011"

March 18, 2011   Auburn, WA           "Benefits and Employment in 2011"


March 21, 2011   Portland, OR         "Benefits and Employment in 2011"

March 22, 2011   Clackamas, OR     “Beyond the Basics of Social Security Benefits”

March 23, 2011   Salem, OR             "Benefits and Employment in 2011"


 For specific site information and to register [Click here]



What  Does  It  Take  To 

Schedule  A  Workshop?


People continue to call asking for more details on hosting workshop on Social Security and medical benefits.  To some people the offer sounds too simple and there must be a catch.   


By serving as the host organization for a workshop, the organization has ten free seats at the workshop.   This certainly reduces staff training costs, particularly when your program is on a tight budget.


We ask the host organization to provide meeting space, for approximately 35-40 people in a classroom setting.  The host organization is responsible for providing light refreshments (coffee, soda, snack foods).  We also ask the host organization to distribute an advertisement of the workshop to local contacts, as they have a better mailing list of contacts in the local area.


The host organization’s distribution of the advertisement is an important role in suburban and rural areas. This usually assures a minimum registration of people to conduct the workshop.  We supply the master copy of the ad by e-mail in Word format.


Benefits Training and Consulting provides the training materials and audio-visual equipment.  In addition, we take care of registration matters and the confirmation of registrations.


Host organizations have used a variety of free meeting space when their own facility was inadequate to accommodate the workshop.  The meeting site must be accessible to individuals with disability.


We maintain a list of interested organizations and contact them approximately 3 months prior to the week I will be in their area. Contact me if you would like to host a workshop during 2011.  You can reach me by phone: (610) 696-1551, or by e-mail  [Click Here]


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