Many individuals with disabilities are interested in working, but don’t know how doing so will affect their ability to receive public benefits like Social Security and Medicare. There are many work incentives individuals can take advantage of so that they can work and keep those benefits, but those incentives and available supports can sometimes be hard to access, understand and navigate.
BenePLAN, funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration, was established in 2000 to provide Massachusetts residents who receive public benefits with information to help them make informed decisions about going to work. Community Work Incentive Coordinators work hands-on to help individuals with disabilities understand how working may affect their public benefits, manage the transition into employment and provide education. BenePLAN, part of the Work Without Limits initiative, expanded in 2012 to offer education and training to employment specialists and case managers, including those who work for state-run One Stop Career Centers, about public benefits and tools so they can better support job seekers with disabilities.
Since its inception BenePLAN has counseled and trained hundreds of people with disabilities across Massachusetts, helping them reach their employment goals. One individual said it would not have been possible to return to work as a registered nurse without the information received from BenePLAN.
The impact of BenePLAN has grown with the training of employment specialists who can guide people seeking work through the maze of public benefits. Since 2013 more than 700 employment specialists have been taught the fundamentals of public benefits and how to help individuals achieve financial goals. Attendees of a recent training said the program not only met, but exceeded expectations.