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Other Employment Considerations

Planning for your young adult's employment raises many questions about job supports, benefits, transportation, accommodations and schedules. Addressing these topics during the planning process is a way to ensure that the transition to work is as smooth as possible.

  • Can my young adult get support from both DDS and MRC (Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission)?

  • How will working affect his/her public benefits, such as Social Security?

  • What will s/he do about transportation to and from work?

  • What types of support and/or accommodations will s/he need at the job site and how will s/he get them?

  • Will my young adult be treated with equality in the workplace?

  • If my young adult is working part-time, what will s/he do in non-work hours?

It is not uncommon for students upon graduation or leaving school to receive complementary employment services from both DDS and MRC. MRC services tend to be time-limited and typically do not include long-term on-the-job supports. However, DDS can fund long-term, on-going support services after MRC has provided other job placement services through its vocational program. An example of such collaboration is where MRC might pay for an initial job assessment, job development and placement costs while DDS would pay for ongoing job support costs.

Success Story: Multiple Resources at Work

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission played a critical role in providing vocational evaluation services and other counseling and placement assistance to help Matt find a job that matched his interests and skills. Once he secured his job at the Sheraton Hotel, he still needed the ongoing support of a job coach. This is where DDS came in, providing regular job coaching. Over time, Matt's coworkers pitched in, helping with supervision and making sure that Matt stays on task. DDS continues to fund ongoing support through his employment service provider, who checks in regularly with Matt's supervisor.

One-Stop Career Centers are part of the general workforce development system. They are designed to provide a full range of assistance to any job seeker who is looking for work. Services available through One-Stops may include job search workshops on such topics as resume writing, job interviewing, and computer /Internet use; information about training programs; career library of books, periodicals, and business publications; and local job postings. Centers have computer stations along with fax and copy machines for members to use for their job search. Many centers also hold job fairs and on-site recruitment events where employers interview applicants for open positions. Career counseling is also available. Most offerings are free of charge, and more than one One-Stop can be used to access services.

Center staff is available to help job seekers across services, but the Centers are designed to be fairly self-directed. Individuals with intellectual disabilities may find it useful to bring someone with them to help navigate the Center's activities. This could be vocational staff from school, an employment provider staff person, a parent, friend or mentor. The Centers often work in collaboration with DDS and MRC-funded employment service providers. Many providers, as well as state agency staff, have built relationships with One-Stops in an effort to maximize the mutual benefits to be had by all, and to promote access to the rich resources these Centers offer. To find out about the One-Stop Career Center nearest to you, go to www.servicelocator.org/ or http://tinyurl.com/n552vz. See the Resource Section on One-Stop Career Centers for more details.

Did you know that:

  • A Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient can make up to $36,133 per year without losing MassHealth Standard coverage?
  • Massachusetts has an exemplary public health insurance program called CommonHealth for some individuals with disabilities who do not qualify for MassHealth Standard?

  • A person receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Childhood Disability Benefit (CDB) benefits has nine "trial work months" during which they will still get a full benefit check regardless of how much money is earned?

  • An SSI or SSDI /CDB recipient can deduct the costs of disability-related work expenses (such as transportation and personal care assistance) from the gross income that Social Security counts when they calculate the amount of the recipient's monthly checks? This is called an Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE).

  • Many young adults who are in school can keep some or all of their annual work earnings, up to $6,600, without losing money from their SSI check. This is called the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE).

How does working impact benefits?

Learning how wages affect benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSI, SSDI) and health insurance from Medicaid/MassHealth and Medicare is very important. The best place to get individualized help with benefits planning is to contact a benefits planning counselor through BenePLAN or Project IMPACT. These free programs, available to those who receive SSI, SSDI and/or Child Disability Benefits (CDB), are funded through the Social Security Administration's Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program. When you call BenePLAN or Project IMPACT, a benefits planning counselor will help you understand the impact of earned income on your young adult's benefits. (Contact information is located in the Resource Section of this booklet.)

There are a number of work incentives offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that can help young adults give "work a try" while keeping their benefits. Already mentioned have been Trial Work Months, IRWE, and SEIE. Two additional work incentive programs are the Ticket to Work Program and the Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) program.

The Ticket to Work program provides SSI and SSDI recipients greater choice in obtaining employment-related services. At age 18 (or older), recipients of SSI/SSDI benefits receive a letter in the mail informing them of their "ticket to work" and how and where to use the program. The letter explains that the person can contact any organization in their area that has been designated by SSA as a provider under this program. When this letter comes in the mail, don't ignore it. Bring it to the attention of your DDS or MRC coordinator/counselor to ask how it might help with employment planning for your young adult. A WIPA benefits specialist can also help explain how the Ticket to Work might be used. For more information about Ticket to Work, visit www.yourtickettowork.com/.

The PASS program is another work incentive. When participating in this program, an SSI recipient aged 15 or older can set aside money, including SSDI and other Social Security benefits, to apply toward a vocational goal. These set-aside funds will not be counted during eligibility determination and calculation of SSI cash benefits. There is an application process for this program. Again, a WIPA benefits planning counselor may be helpful.

Success Story: Putting Work Incentives to Work

Marissa received SSI while working at Starbucks for her last two years of school, earning a competitive wage. Since she was receiving SSI, it was important to report to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that her Starbucks job was documented in her IEP and she was therefore entitled to the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE). Even though Marissa's mother, Barbara, informed SSA in a timely manner, Marissa received a letter from SSA asking her to pay the government back because she had been earning job wages. It is not unusual for families to receive this type of letter from SSA and they should not be alarmed. Barbara again provided documentation to SSA that Marissa's employment program was written into her IEP, showed proof of wages, and the problem was resolved. Marissa's experience serves as a good reminder to keep records and copies of any communication with SSA.

What is the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC)?

Also known as the Vocational Rehabilitation agency (VR), the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) is the state agency whose primary focus is to assist individuals with a significant disability(ies) to become competitively employed. MRC services can include vocational counseling, evaluation and assessment, guidance and assistance in job placement, time-limited job coaching, training programs, technology services, and van and home modifications.

What is the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB)?

MCB is a separate state VR agency for persons who are legally blind. Persons with visual impairments should contact MCB rather than MRC to access the specialized services MCB provides.

Going to Work,  cover

Going to Work: A Guide to Social Security Benefits and Employment for Young People with Disabilities is a helpful resource for understanding and learning about how benefits are affected by paid employment. You will find easy-to-understand information about the programs mentioned in this booklet. Available online at
http://tinyurl.com/nv5cev, the document can also be obtained by calling the Institute for Community Inclusion at 617-287-4300.