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  • March 19, 2021 11:22 AM | NENA Admin (Administrator)

    By Jessica Conant, NENA Director
    Golden Sierra Job Training Agency

    As we are moving into the second year of the pandemic, we are reminded of the importance of staying healthy so that we are able to provide the excellent service to our customers that we are known for. The more we know and practice healthy habits, the more we can share with our customers to increase their chances for successfully transitioning into the workplace and through these challenging times.

    Referring to the CDC site on Coping with Stress (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html), “Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.”

    We know what we should do, but are we ensuring that we are actually doing it? Remember that you have to put your own mask on before helping others! Here are some key reminders (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/mental-health-non-healthcare.html):

    ·         Identify those things which you do not have control over and do the best you can with the resources available to you.

    ·         Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible — ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic.

    o    Keep a regular sleep schedule.

    o    Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise, or check in with your supportive colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends.

    o    Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing.

    o    If you work from home, set a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible.

    o    Practice mindfulness techniques. Ways to be mindful can include:

    §  Breathing exercises, focusing on each inhale and exhale.

    §  Eating healthy meals, savoring each bite.

    §  Meditating on a positive word (relaxation, ease or calm) or an image that makes you happy.

    §  Intentionally connecting to an old friend (electronically, of course).

    §  Taking a bath, noticing the warm temperature and its effects on muscle tension releasing.

    o    Do things you enjoy during non-work hours.

    ·         Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources.

    ·         Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting

    ·         Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns, how you are feeling, or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you.

    Challenge time! I challenge you to not only incorporate these strategies into your daily lives, but to encourage those you work with and those you serve to do the same. Create a challenge on social media or in your office to help others add healthy habits into their schedules.

  • February 26, 2021 5:01 PM | NENA Admin (Administrator)

    By Lauren Parker, NENA Director
    Ticket to Work Senior Director, Virginia Career Works Northern Region

    It feels like things have changed at warp speed this past year regarding how we work and interact with one another. A lot of us have transitioned to a service delivery model that is completely virtual. As we continue to adapt, it is more important than ever that our virtual services, resources, and information are accessible.

    Just as our technology is ever-changing so too must our accessibility solutions. We can be proactive by asking questions about the information we share, services we provide, and products we use to deliver services. Can everyone read the content on my website? Is the attached PDF about a hiring event accessible? Did I add alt text to my presentation? What are the accessibility features of this virtual job platform? However, the key to sustaining accessibility is making sure we have a process in place. Digital accessibility is just that. It is the process for making our digital content and services accessible to all. For an overview of digital accessibility check out this short video.

    Why it is important?

    Technology is becoming increasingly embedded in our lives. In 2016, the UN declared access to the internet a human right. Digital accessibility makes good business sense too. It improves the digital experience for everyone, and companies that do not ensure digital accessibility are losing customers.

    Whether you operate a small-business or work for a large organization, you have the power to make a difference. Help spread the word about digital accessibility.

    Ways to get started

    • Learn more about digital accessibility and identify what you can do on your own and what you might need to outsource.
    • Find an accessibility partner. Many businesses offer compliance solutions, including website audits and document remediation. View the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) list of Website Accessibility Vendors.
    • Review your business processes. Are there additional steps you can include to ensure accessibility is not overlooked?
      • Incorporate an annual website audit into your budget and operations plans.
      • Look at your procurement process. Do you ask vendors if their products follow current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) guidelines.
    • Create an accessibility statement for your business. Try this accessibility statement generator.
    • Develop a Digital Accessibility Policy. This guideline is targeted for schools, but is a resource anyone can use.

    Want to dive deeper? Here are some additional resources—

  • January 20, 2021 6:32 PM | NENA Admin (Administrator)

    By Sarah Lyngdal, NENA Secretary
    Ticket to Work Program Manager, Employment Resources, Inc.

    When Social Security disability beneficiaries start to consider a return to work, their biggest question is: How much can I earn without impacting my benefits? For many it is the deciding factor about how much they will work and earn when they find a job. But there is a lot of misinformation out there and beneficiaries are sometimes clinging to the wrong numbers without realizing it.

    I am a big believer that all ticketholders considering work should begin by getting work incentives benefits counseling from a trained and reputable source. The key to a successful return to work journey is being able to prepare for benefit changes before they happen. A work incentives benefits counselor can verify benefits, explain how earnings will impact state and federal benefits, and outline action items when there are changes to the ticketholder’s situation - including finding a job.

    Benefits counseling services can be provided in a variety of forms. Initially benefits counseling can include information and referral, or more in-depth services like a report about benefits, work incentives, income limits and timelines. The information in the report is specific to the ticketholder. An important part of the report explains when and how to report earnings to Social Security. Ongoing benefits counseling can include assistance with reporting work, filling out necessary paperwork, interpreting correspondence from both Social Security and state agencies that provide benefits, and resolving benefits issues. Employment Networks can also help the ticketholder monitor work incentives and timelines and ensure that paperwork is submitted promptly to have a greater chance of avoiding overpayments.

    The decision to return to work, begin working for the first time, or increase work can be a difficult one for the ticketholders we serve. Understanding how income-sensitive benefits can be affected by work earnings and managing those benefits can add even more stress and fear to the decision. As Ticket to Work providers, we can use benefits counseling services to educate ticketholders about their benefits, discuss options to maintain needed health insurance coverage, and hopefully alleviate some of the concerns around budgeting.

    Unfortunately, not all return-to-work efforts are seamless. If a ticketholder’s job ends or their hours are reduced, this can affect eligibility for benefits. A benefits counselor can help the ticketholder explore their options and assist with the process of getting cash benefits and health coverage reinstated, allowing the ticketholder to focus on the things that will help them get back to work or increase their hours.

    Furthermore, the support provided through benefits counseling can help ticketholders focus more on their job and career goals and abate some of their fears about benefits when working. Benefits counseling helps ticketholders make informed decisions about work and offers peace of mind in knowing the options and safety nets available with Social Security work incentives. In my opinion, it is the most important service we can offer our ticketholders.

    The Ticket to Work program published a great Fact Sheet about Benefits Counseling and the Path to Employment. You can find it here:
    https://choosework.ssa.gov/library/fact-sheet-benefits-counseling-and-the-path-to-employment

    Looking for Benefits Counseling Training?

    Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) CWIC and Community Partner Initial Training and Certification: https://vcu-ntdc.org/training/initial/initial.cfm
    Cost: Free
    Offered virtually

    Cornell Work Incentives Planning and Utilization for Benefit Practitioners:
    https://www.ytionline.org/courses  
    Cost: Fees vary
    Offered virtually

  • December 22, 2020 2:19 PM | NENA Admin (Administrator)

    By David Leon, NENA Director
    Deputy Director Workforce Programs, Virginia Dept for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

    As we usher in 2021, it is a great time to reach out to ticketholders you are working with to provide coaching and guidance around goal setting. Many of us spend time thinking through New Year’s resolutions and it is a great time to begin working on a new developing a new habit. Helping beneficiaries think through financial goals for the New Year is another step towards greater self-sufficiency. According to a December study by the FINRA Foundation, families with more than $100 in savings are better able to avoid high-cost borrowing such as predatory lending and payday loans, and keep utilities on, and they are more financially satisfied than those with less money in savings. According to the CFPB, over 80% of payday loans are followed by another payday loan within fourteen days and half are in a sequence of at least ten loans. Many borrowers end up paying more in fees and interest than the original loan amount. Saving $100.00 is a small goal that could have a large payoff in an emergency and create a new habit that will pay dividends in the future.

    For people who do not earn a lot of money and have trouble saving, here are a few tips that can help build up even a small safety net. Starting small is a good way of developing a habit. Just get started, even if it is just $5.00 a paycheck. Setting aside a small amount in an emergency savings account is a great way to begin. Don’t let those financial “experts” discourage you from working on this just because the thought of saving three to six months of earnings is unfathomable. A smaller goal such as $100.00 is still beneficial and much more attainable. Remember the goal of savings is to have it for when you need it and it is important to celebrate rather than become pessimistic about the ability to reach the goal. Developing a savings plan also helps people stay on track and discussing this plan with your client will make it more likely that the individuals you work with will be successful. Automating saving may make this easier by setting up a payroll deduction, automatic transfer or using an app that will do some of the work for you.

    Talk of another round of stimulus checks brings up one other way of jump-starting a savings plan. If you know your client will be getting a chunk of money such as a stimulus check or a tax return, you could provide counseling and guidance to develop a plan to save a portion of those funds. Starting a conversation around money may seem foreign but these discussions will build a stronger rapport and therapeutic alliance over time.

    Wishing everyone a safe and happy New Year!

  • November 20, 2020 12:46 PM | NENA Admin (Administrator)

    By Peter Travisano, NENA Director
    Work Without Limits, UMass Medical School

    As Employment Network, Workforce and State VR Staff engaged in the Ticket to Work, we are often faced with difficult day-to-day questions regarding program operations.

    One important resource that we should be making regular use of is the Ticket to Work Provider Support Help Desk, operated by the Ticket Program Manager (TPM) Maximus. Staff are knowledgeable and take the time to provide detailed information.  When needed, they will research questions and follow up with more information.   We keep their number on our speed dial and use it often!

    We have found the Help Desk to be an invaluable source of information and guidance regarding complex payment requests. 

    Phase 1 payments can be especially challenging for Employment Networks.  One of the more difficult problems that the Help Desk assists us with is determining where a Ticketholder falls with look back earnings.  Help Desk staff can confirm recorded Trial Work earnings using information already in the system but not available through the Ticket to Work portal.  This allows the EN to know which months and which Milestone numbers to bill for, thus eliminating unnecessary denials and delays.  The Help Desk can also walk the EN through the payment request process.  This can be especially helpful in submitting Proof of Contact documentation should the EN be missing beneficiary pay stubs.

    The Help Desk can provide information in determining eligibility for Phase 2 and Milestone payments and may be able to provide more information than can be found in the portal.

    They can also be helpful in determining the reasons for payment denials and offer assistance in resolving them.  This is often a matter of determining which payment to request for the individual.

    The Help Desk also provides information related to Ticket assignment and important “how-to’s” regarding managing the Ticket portal, and the service provider website.

    To contact the Help Desk, call (866) 949-3687 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays. The Help Desk also provides after-hours service via voicemail; simultaneous service to multiple callers; Spanish language service; Text Telephone Communication Service for the hearing- and speech-impaired. Their fax number is (703) 893-4020.

    You may also email the Help Desk at:

    ENPaymentshelpdesk@yourtickettowork.ssa.gov for payment questions.

    ENSystemsHelp@yourtickettowork.ssa.gov for questions and issues related to Ticket assignment, the service provider website, and the Ticket Portal.


  • October 22, 2020 10:00 AM | Deleted user

    By Amy Wallish, NENA Vice President

    CEO, Full Circle Employment Solutions LLC


    Paper notes set with positive words


    ‘Tis the season for strategic planning, reflections on 2020, holiday music, Black Friday sales, Services and Supports audits, lots of food, DOL RFI responses, Ticketholder successes and busyness. It can also be a time of uneasiness about the unknown. How can we shape our thoughts and attitude into one of gratefulness and thanksgiving each day? I invite you to reflect on a few steps we can each take to bring more gratitude and joy into our lives and those around us.

    Smile more. A smile can make you feel better. A shared smile can warm someone else. I’m sure you can all think of a time when someone gave you that unexpected welcoming smile that just made your day. In our current times with masks, we need to smile more with our eyes. I challenge you to Google how to smile with your eyes. You’ll find lots of sites that talk about it. Take intentional time each day to smile to yourself, coworkers, clients, or strangers.

    Send a handwritten note. Share your gratitude for someone with a handwritten note. Be specific and personalize the note with details that you learned by listening and knowing the person. The act of writing out your thanks and physical mailing it will brighten your day and someone else’s.

    Gratitude time. Set aside a specific time each day to reflect on 3 things or 3 people that you are grateful for that day. Visualize them and give thanks again.

    Help someone else. The simple act of helping someone else can be life changing and joy giving. So take time to ask, “How are you?” or “How can I help you?” and act.

    Say Hello. Say hello to strangers. The act of acknowledging someone with a smile and a hello will allow you to express gratitude to those around you.

    Dance. Take 5 minutes each day to get your body moving. Ask Alexa to play a song and turn it up. Stand up from your desk and just dance! How can you not have joy while dancing to… Fill in the blank and give it your best shot, baby.

    Self-Examination. Take time to do a self-check-in. How were my words today? Did I leave someone in a better place? Did I leave a kind word? Did I pay attention to those I encountered today? Did I make time? Did I make peace? Did I say, “I’m here for you”? With self-examination comes understanding and self-compassion and in turn a spirit of inward joy and outward gratefulness to others.

    Let’s pause here. Go back and re-read these ideas. Let’s challenge ourselves to do as many as we can in the next 30 days. Take note of it. How did it make you feel? Did anything surprise you? Did you surprise anyone? How did others react? I’d love to do a follow-up article in a future newsletter with feedback from this challenge, so please email me your feedback, stories, and responses on how it went.


  • September 30, 2020 10:30 AM | Deleted user

    By Amy Wallish

    NENA Vice President

    NENA Conference in Review


    By now, you are hopefully caught up on emails and back into your regular routine which likely does NOT include taking random pictures to upload to the “Game” or “Photo Scavenger Hunt.”

    That’s a Wrap! NENA’s 10th Annual National Training Conference

    By now, you have used the items in your goodie bag and double-checked your raffle ticket numbers. We are still looking for some of the WINNERS to give out your PRIZE. All the numbers are in the notifications section on the app. Please double check to see if you are a winner.

    By now, you have had time to reflect on last week’s wonderful conference and have provided feedback on ALL your AWESOME sessions. If not, please be sure to take time to complete this. The NENA board will use the evaluations as we plan 2021 trainings and events.

    By now, you have hopefully checked out the ON-DEMAND sessions, such as Ask the Expert! Re-Entry Q&A, which is located on the app. More will be coming shortly so keep checking back.

    By now, you may have gone back into the app to REVIEW some of the recordings or download presentations on sessions such as Work Smart, Contractor Compliance & Connecting, PII, Interviewing 101, Client Engagement Strategies, Wage Reporting and Marketing. 

    By now, you have made some new NENA connections and sent out those follow up emails. Perhaps you have even made one of the recipes from the After-Hours Cocktail Shake Up NETWORKING event.

    By now, your head may be swimming with so many IDEAS and great takeaways from the conference. But before I lose you, take one more look at the conference Welcome Session to relive the moment it all began! Click here to watch the session.

    By now, if you missed NENA’s 10th annual training conference, we hope you can see the VALUE of attending a future conference. If not, talk to anyone who attended for feedback.

    By now, you are probably sick of my “by nows” about the conference. So now it is time to move on. Make sure to review your NEW TPA as there are more changes than just those highlighted. Be sure to sign and return it by October 28,2020.



  • August 21, 2020 1:36 PM | Deleted user

    by Judy Sanderson, NENA Director

    Director, Vocational Services

    Granite State Independent Living

    Computer Scam Representing Rip Off And Scams

    With the millions of people who receive Social Security benefits, it’s probably not surprising that a lot of scam artists use the program in fraudulent phone calls, emails, and letters. The schemes typically involve criminals impersonating the Social Security Administration in order to obtain, and then misuse, social security numbers and other personal information. They are even using Covid-19 in their attempts to defraud beneficiaries. Here are some ways scammers are using social security:

    • Scammers use phone calls and email messages to impersonate Social Security personnel and trick people into giving up money and personal information.
    • Common tactics include threatening the suspension of Social Security benefits or charging for services the Social Security Administration provides for free.
    • Scams should be reported to your local authorities, the SSA Office of the Inspector General, or the Federal Trade Commission.

    Scammers are aware that people are catching on to their attempts, so they’re coming up with new ways to convince Social Security beneficiaries that their frauds are legitimate. Here’s what to tell your ticket holders to watch for so they can protect themselves and others from Social Security scams.

    1. Threatening arrest or legal action: If you receive a threatening phone call claiming that there is an issue with your Social Security number or benefits, it’s a scam. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will never threaten you with arrest or other legal action if you don’t immediately pay a fine or fee.

    2. Emails or texts with personally identifiable information: If there’s a legitimate problem with your Social Security number or record, the SSA will mail you a letter to notify you of any issues.

    3. Misspellings and grammar mistakes: If the caller follows up with emails containing falsified letters or reports that appear to be from the SSA or SSA’s OIG, look closely. The letters may use government “jargon” or letterhead that appears official in order to help convince victims, but they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes.

    4. Requests for payment by gift or pre-paid card, cash, or wire transfer: If you do need to submit payments to the SSA, the agency will mail a letter with payment instructions and options through U.S. mail. You should never pay a government fee or fine using retail gift cards, cash, internet currency, wire transfers, or pre-paid debit cards. Scammers ask for payment this way because it’s difficult to trace and recover.

    5. Offers to increase benefits in exchange for payment: Similarly, SSA employees will never promise to increase your Social Security benefits, or offer other assistance, in exchange for payment.

    6. Supposedly friendly service phone calls: One type of scam call attempts to sell to the recipient services the SSA readily provides at no charge. The caller might, for example, offer to provide a new Social Security card, enroll a new family member in the program, or provide a record of Social Security contributions to date, along with the expected future income they will yield. Note: more recently there have been scams where the callers have offered Covid-19 testing kits for around $20. Of course, no kit ever arrives, and the scammers have gathered significant personal information in the process.

    7. Fake emails: Seniors may also be reeled in by so-called “phishing” emails designed to emulate messages from the SSA. The emails typically resemble actual agency communication, including duplicate mastheads and font styles. The messages may also direct readers to a fake page designed to look like one from the SSA website. The efforts invariably seek to obtain personal information from you, which should never be provided. The same clues of fraudulent intent as with the phone calls apply here.

    Note: both the SSA and the Office of the Inspector General say that legitimate emails from the agency never seek personal information and do not adopt an alarmist or threatening tone.

    Reporting a scam:

    If you think you’ve been the victim of a Social Security scam, report it immediately. Make sure you document anything you can to add to your report, such as a telephone number or website, the name of the caller, the time and date of the call or email, what information was requested, and anything else that may identify the person who made the call.

    There are a number of ways to report a scam:


  • July 23, 2020 7:47 PM | Deleted user

    By David Leon, NENA Director

    Deputy Director, Workforce Programs

    Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

    Covid-19 has created problems and opportunities within the service delivery system when it comes to the Ticket to Work program. For many ENs and VR agencies, this has meant a switch to more virtual services, endless Zoom, WebEx and Microsoft team or Google hangout meetings. It has meant working with beneficiaries in new ways and addressing different issues. More time has been spent on calculating hours and navigating both work incentives and, in some cases, unemployment benefits. Addressing workplace safety related to helping some decide if now is the best time to begin that new job or increase hours due to workplace demands has been another new area of work with our customers. The uncertainty of when things will return to normal looms over most of us as we try to plan for future activities and opportunities.

    Young man using a laptop at work 

    The ability to connect with beneficiaries’ virtually is not new, and many Employment Networks have very successful business models based on this type of service delivery. It is a great time to use this success to grow in other ways. Perhaps it is through identifying resources that would help current ticket holders you are serving prepare for the next career step through the identification of free online training. Maybe it is a renewed focus on increasing partnership opportunities with VR agencies as they move towards remote service delivery. The time is ripe to provide added value to both internal and external customers due to the changing landscape. Many positions and companies that were not designed for a remote worker have been moving in this direction, opening new opportunities for the clients we serve.

    A personal area of interest for me has been the addition of financial empowerment services to the VR process in Virginia. This has included the use of financial health assessments, tools from the CFPB, NDI and NextGen Personal Finance as well as referring some of our VR clients to virtual financial coaching. Financial coaching may include working to manage immediate expenses and figuring out which bills to be paid first, developing a spending plan to pay off debt and build an emergency fund. This type of service often helps to build hope and may be provided at no cost through nonprofits or financial institutions in the community. Adding this type of service for your clients not only provides additional expertise to help with critical aspects of managing increased income but may also strengthen the relationship between your EN and the client.


  • June 16, 2020 1:19 PM | Deleted user
    By Sarah Lyngdal, NENA Director
    Ticket to Work Program Manager
    Employment Resources, Inc.

    In COVID-19 times, many of us dramatically changed the way in which we do our work; namely going from a physical office space to providing services remotely/virtually from our homes. This change seems to have freed up some staff time to work on professional development and continuing education.  Not only that, but some of the consumers we serve are looking for ways to revamp their skills and productively occupy their time. I’d like to share some great free resources for training to expand our knowledge and skills. 


    Colleagues & Clients: GCF LearnFree, created by the Goodwill Community Foundation and Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina, offers free training and tutorials on more than 200 topics. Training offerings include computer programs like Microsoft office, graphic design, job search/career, and starting from scratch with basic computer skills.

    Colleagues & Clients: Alison.com is one of the biggest free online education and skills training. Offers 1,000 free online courses with a range of topics from IT, Language, Health, Business, Marketing and Lifestyle.

    Colleagues & ClientsLinkedIn Learning acquired Lynda.com back in 2015. It offers all the training content previously available on Lynda.com with topics like customer service, leadership, time management and a range of software programs. LinkedIn Learning offers a free month trial for their online training. Also, LinkedIn Learning might be free through your public library:

    Colleagues & Clients:  Consumer Finance Protection Bureau- Your Money Your Goals, financial empowerment training to help consumers meet their financial goals. Free toolkits and consumer guides available which cover a range of financial topics including budgeting, debt, paying bills, and understanding credit reports. CFPB is hosting weekly webinars on Wednesdays, June 10, 2020 to July 8, 2020 at 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm EST. The one and one-half hour webinars will showcase the CFPB’s Your Money, Your Goals financial resources for frontline staff and those who work with economically vulnerable populations.

    Colleagues: VCU has an upcoming introductory class: Introduction to Social Security Disability Benefits, Work Incentives, and Employment Support Programs Web Course (June 2020)

    Clients: Building IT Fundamentals

    Interested in Podcasts?

    • TED offers a Work Life podcast by Organizational Psychologist, Adam Grant.  A few episode topics include burnout, procrastination, and reinventing job interviews. 
    • The Happiness Lab by Dr. Laurie Santos sharing scientific research and stories about happiness. Dr. Santos has done a few episodes talking about COVID-19. 

    New to Online Learning? Check out these 8 Tips for Effective Online Learning.


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The National Employment Network Association (NENA) serves Employment Networks (ENs), American Job Centers (AJCs), State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (SVRAs) and other Stakeholders involved in the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program.

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