Why should employers know more about Social Security benefits? If you have ever had an employee refuse a raise, or try to keep their hours to a certain limit each week, it may very well be that the employee is trying to preserve SSA disability benefits.

Employers often don’t know if someone in their workforce receives disability benefits, unless the employee discloses this at their discretion. If this is the case, and you’re trying to “help” the employee by creatively managing total monthly income, there is probably more you should know about Social Security work incentives.

Generally, the behavior described would be associated with an individual who receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Let’s explore a few of these work incentives.

  1. A total of nine Trial Work Period (TWP) months are available to SSDI beneficiaries who choose to work, during which time any amount of money can be earned while health insurance and benefit checks continue.
  2. 2. After the TWP, a 36-month Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) begins. During the EPE, payment of cash benefits is based on amount of monthly earnings and whether the earnings exceed the “Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)” level (a threshold determined annually by Social Security).

When in the EPE, a beneficiary may choose to curb hours or avoid wage increases to stay below SGA level wages to maintain benefits. In reality, the EPE was designed to encourage the opposite behavior, to try earning as much as possible to evaluate long-term ability. Since benefits may be ceased for any month over SGA, the goal of the beneficiary should be to earn enough to make forgoing benefits worthwhile.

Sound confusing and complicated to you? Employers can be supported through services provided to SSA disability beneficiaries via the Ticket to Work program. The goal of the program is to assist beneficiaries get back to work, and develop career paths that will allow them to return to a self-sufficient lifestyle, if able. The Ticket to Work program is free and voluntary for SSA beneficiaries.

Where can I find help?

The American Dream Employment Network (ADEN) is an approved SSA Ticket to Work provider providing services throughout the country, with professional employment specialists and certified work incentive practitioners currently in 24 states, and growing. ADEN offers its participants guidance on SSA Work Incentives, as well as career counseling, job search assistance and long-term ongoing support when employed. ADEN provides training for employers including an introduction to available work incentives so you can meet your workforce needs and continue to tap into this diverse group of job seekers.

What support is available today?

Employers needed additional assistance can join a free “Introduction to Social Security Benefits and Work Incentives” webinar held at various dates through 2019 to learn more or visit www.AmericanDreamEN.org to discover more about ADEN and the Ticket to Work program. Finally, employers are welcome to download a copy of the SSA Red Book to help clarify any questions they may have.

Kevin Nickerson, Co-Director of ADEN

Kevin Nickerson is a nationally recognized expert on the effective implementation of Employment Networks (ENs) within the public workforce system, as well as within for-profit and nonprofit organizations that serve individuals with disabilities. Nickerson has served as an “on the ground” resource for the U.S. Department of Labor and Social Security Administration (SSA) and its contractors due to his pioneering work at Challenge Workforce Solutions, a nonprofit rehabilitation agency in Ithaca New York, where he was a service provider for nearly 20 years. Nickerson established Challenge as an Employment Network (EN) in the Ticket to Work program in 2001, the first private EN in New York State. Nickerson assisted numerous SSA disability beneficiaries in achieving self-sufficiency through the Ticket to Work program.

Nickerson has been a certified Benefits Planning, Assistance & Outreach specialist for Tompkins County, New York since 2000, and maintains his certification as a Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC). He has assisted hundreds of SSA beneficiaries in accessing Social Security Work Incentives to return to work. Nickerson applied his knowledge of SSA work incentives and the Ticket to Work program in his leadership role as Disability Resource Coordinator (DRC) State Lead for NYS under their Round 1 Disability Employment Initiative (DEI), where each of the 26 DRCs he led also became certified CWICs. During his time providing leadership to the NYS DEI Round 1 project, Nickerson assisted the state in achieving significant outcomes under the Ticket to Work program. Under the DPN initiative, Nickerson co-developed a 30-Second Training strategy to educate and provide resources to staff on serving and accommodating individuals with disabilities. This U.S. DOL “promising practice” has been utilized widely in recent years, and has been identified as an innovative and engaging way to train Workforce Center staff, partner agencies, and employers nationwide.

Currently, Nickerson works for National Disability Institute (NDI) primarily as Co-Director of ADEN, while also working under additional grants for NDI which focus on improved employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

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