this window to return to course.

Getting Past the Misinformation

Jason has been working for a number of years in a sheltered

workshop. The program that is working with Jason has just

approached him about the possibility of considering community

employment. Jason's parents are just not altogether sure about

whether they are supportive of this move to community-based

employment, because they heard the horror stories from other

individuals who have gone to work and lost their eligibility for

a cash benefit.

Let's look at some of the challenges that Jason is facing.

First of all, I think it's important if you ever assisted

anybody in going through that eligibility process, to establish

eligibility for an SSI cash benefit, you can identify and will

understand just how lengthy, time consuming, and difficult that

process can be for individuals. Individuals who have fought

long and hard to establish their disability benefits under SSI

are often reluctant to risk losing that benefit when they go to

work. Be very clear that paid employment is viewed by many,

many beneficiaries as a significant risk to continue to receive

their SSI cash benefit. Many people see it as a choice of

either, "I don't work at all and keep the relative security of

my disability benefit under SSI; or I choose to go to work, and

I lose my benefits altogether." It's seen as an either/or type

of thing.

 

The other thing to keep in mind is that the SSI program rules

that affect the impact of work on the cash benefit are very

complex and difficult. They are difficult for the beneficiaries

and the families to get their arms around and be comfortable

with. In the past, they haven't had access to complete

information about what the impacts are. A lot of what they

learned is through word of mouth, through other beneficiaries.

Often what gets the most attention are those horror stories

where things have gone wrong for individuals. We like to refer

to this as Social Security folklore. Sometimes it will have a

bit of a kernel of the basis in reality, but over time it loses

that basis in truth.

There is a lot of misinformation out there as a result.

Unfortunately, this misinformation is frequently reinforced by

service providers. Rehab providers, school personnel, community

rehab program professionals, even Social Security Administration

personnel in some cases will reinforce this misinformation.

What happens as a result of this, because people can't get

access to good and complete and accurate information, they will

often opt on the side of being careful and say, "Well, if I

don't know what is going to happen, then I'm going to take the

safe route. I'll just choose not to work." They pass up

opportunities to improve themselves, work, and pursue their

goals, which most of you can agree is a wholly unacceptable situation.

Incentives by Susan O'Mara, available online: The seminar was produced by Virginia Commonwealth University's T-TAP project funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor (Number E9-4-2-01217). The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Labor. Nor does mention of trade names, commercial products,or organizations imply the endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor.