Navigating disability benefits and work: GESMN can help!
Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota (GESMN) strives to help everyone experience the power of work. Our Work Incentives Connection (WIC) program helps people receiving disability benefits to navigate the system and find work solutions to accommodate their needs. We spoke with Jen, a community work incentives coordinator, to learn more about WIC.
Q: What is your role and how long have you been at GESMN?
I am a community work incentives coordinator with the Work Incentives Connection. I provide benefits planning services to people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Q: What is Work Incentives Connection (WIC) and what do you wish people knew more about the program?
WIC is a resource that provides benefits’ planning and assistance for people working or who want to work.
I wish people knew that anyone in Minnesota on SSDI and/or SSI benefits can contact us with questions. We are a one-stop resource for taking questions not only about SSDI and SSI, but also anything else government-benefit-related: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA), Group Residential Housing (GRH), Section 8 and veteran’s assistance.
Q: What kinds of resources are available for people referred to the program?
We provide answers to questions about work and benefits via a hotline, 651-632-5113, that is answered Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Our primary service is a benefits analysis, which is a tailored report explaining work rules, work incentives and safety nets for the benefits an individual is on, with a financial comparison that shows how working at different levels will affect their bottom line and instructions about how/when to report earnings.
We also provide:
Assistance with problem-solving related to work and benefits.
Information on what kinds of resources are available for people who might be starting their journey navigating employment options and their benefits.
Q: What are common barriers to employment you see most often?
I work with people in the entire state of Minnesota. In much of the state, lack of transportation can be a barrier to employment. People who work may begin to save for a goal like a vehicle, but SSI’s $2,000 asset limit hasn’t increased in decades.
Other barriers include:
Possible discrimination/misinformation about a person’s abilities.
Reporting responsibilities can be daunting and benefit providers may not always be able to change benefits quickly. This can result in overpayments.
Q: What parts of your job do you find the most rewarding?
I can relieve a lot of anxiety people have about working [with disability] benefits. People are usually worried they will lose benefits, including cash and healthcare. When subsidized housing and county benefits are involved, a person may be concerned that they may not actually get financially ahead by working. I explain the work rules, show the person their personal situation and relieve any fears about working. The best part of my job is seeing the spark in a person’s eyes who tells me they get it and they can work!