If you support someone who has a disability, receives SSI and/or SSDI and wants to work you need to know about your local Benefits Specialist!
In 1999 the Social Security Administration established a grant program called the Benefits Planning, Assistance and Outreach (BPAO) Program. Under BPAO, monetary awards were granted to community-based organizations, called BPAO Projects, to provide all SSA beneficiaries with disabilities access to work incentives planning and assistance services. In Missouri two BPAO grants were awarded. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, in cooperation with the Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council and 20 independent living centers (ILC) received one award. As a result of their efforts, there are now 7 Benefits Specialists that provide services Statewide except for around the St Louis area. The second award went to Paraquad, a St Louis based agency. Three Benefit Specialists at Paraquad provide services to persons with disabilities in St. Louis City, and St. Louis, Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and Warren counties.
The Benefit Specialist Philosophy Benefit Specialists work out of Independent Living Centers and believe in the Independent Living Philosophy. This philosophy is that " all persons regardless of disability are entitled and should have equal access to the rights and responsibilities that other citizens are provided: to be as active a member of society as they choose"; thus comes the independent living motto of: "Control over ones life, by making Choices that in turn bring about Change. " Benefits Specialists are here to give people with disabilities the power to choose.
Benefit Specialists can help you understand
- Work Incentives such as the nine month Trial Work Period, Extended Period of Eligibility, 1619b extended Medicaid, Blind Work Expense and PASS Plans.
- How work will affect benefits as well as medical insurance, food stamps, housing, AFDC.
Benefit Specialists will:
- Work with support providers to ensure that people receive services needed to help reach work goals.
- Help people develop management plans so that people will know where they stand on work earnings and their effects on benefits.
- Provide enough information about work so that people can make an informed decision on how work will affect their lives and benefits.
- Benefit Specialists are not here to make individuals work, but to give people information on their options and benefits if they decide to work.