I’ve had the pleasure of working with many disability beneficiaries who have overcome numerous barriers and found their way to self-sufficiency. I’ve always understood why so many of the beneficiaries I work with do not want to disclose their disability. When push came to shove for one beneficiary, we agreed his only option was to disclose disability and request a reasonable accommodation. We all know that as long as the employer doesn’t suffer undue hardship, that the accommodation should be something they work together on with the employee. What happens when the conversation doesn’t go as planned? What happens when a beneficiary finally advocates for themselves, discloses disability and is told, “Your employment is now on hold.” How can EN’s help beneficiaries when disclosure doesn’t go as planned?
First things first, if the beneficiary is eligible for a cash benefit due to loss of earnings, get on the horn and help them report this to their local Social Security Office. The beneficiary is now without income, and that is something that needs to be addressed quickly. Help identify the beneficiary’s local SSA office and find out what they need to get the beneficiary back on disability cash benefits.
Once that task is accomplished, there are a variety of resources you can help the beneficiary reach out to regarding both the legal ramifications and issues regarding benefits/insurance:
- Job Accommodation Network askjan.org. Contact a counselor and explain the situation. Seek guidance.
- PABSS: Contact the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security in the beneficiary’s home state.
- State Legal Aid resources: research and provide information to the beneficiary on possible legal aid agencies that could help them through this. For example, in the State of Nebraska, beneficiaries could contact Nebraska Appleseed (https://neappleseed.org) for assistance.
- Provide the beneficiary with information regarding Work Opportunity Tax Credits.The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment. WOTC joins other workforce programs that incentivize workplace diversity and facilitate access to good jobs for American workers. One target group is the following:
Vocational Rehabilitation Referral:
An individual with a disability who completed or is completing rehabilitative services from a state-certified agency, an Employment Network under the Ticket to Work program, or the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
- Is the employer a federal contractor? In the above situation, the employer is in fact a federal contractor. Provide the beneficiary with information regarding Section 503. This can be found at dol.gov.
- Medicaid/Medicare/Private Insurance: Now that the beneficiary’s income has substantially decreased, what issues need to be addressed with Medicare or Medicaid? If you’re EN is unable to assist, refer them to their State Health and Human Services for assistance with Medicaid or state SHIIP office for assistance with Medicare (Senior Health Insurance Information Program). Perhaps due to the loss of income, the beneficiary may now qualify for Medicaid, Medicare Savings Program or full or partial low income subsidy for their Part D plan. Were they on employer provided insurance and now need a special enrollment with Medicare? SHIIP can help answer all of these questions regarding Medicare.
- State WIPA provider: If intensive benefits counseling is needed and your EN is not capable of providing that, try speaking with your state WIPA for guidance.
- Other Resources? We welcome any other suggestions or resources you’ve utilized. Leave a comment if you chose!
I’m sure there are many, many more resources out there to help beneficiaries who’ve met this obstacle. In an ideal world, we see someone request a reasonable accommodation, that accommodation is granted and everyone moves along. However, when disclosure goes bad, it’s our responsibility to assist and advocate for individuals we’re serving in the Ticket to Work Program.