Peer Mentor Blog Post: Maintaining Benefits Crucial to CDPA While Working

Athena Savides, CDPAANYS Peer Mentor, writes:

Individuals with disabilities sometimes feel discouraged about working or returning to work for fear of losing their Medicaid and SSI / SSDI benefits. We at CDPAANYS believe that employment is a vital part of the goal of people with disabilities’ being engaged and active in their communities.  It can be difficult to balance our employment with our personal care needs, as all individuals with disabilities have to maintain their Medicaid eligibility in order to participate in Consumer Directed Personal Assistance (CDPA). People with disabilities have many important considerations, regarding their employment, but the obstacles to our employment are not insurmountable.

Your Local Department of Social Services (LDSS) or your local Independent Living Center (ILC) should be equipped to help manage your benefits, both before you start working, and as you continue to work. It is equally as important to discuss your plans to work with the Social Security Administration, (SSA) as a representative there will be able to help you understand exactly how much, if at all, your benefits will be affected, once you start working.

It is also important to note that there are programs in place that can help people with disabilities maintain their benefits while employed. For example, A Plan for Achieving Self Support (PASS) allows individuals with disabilities to set aside money for a specific approved work related goal, which will not count as income, and therefore will not affect SSI / SSDI benefits.

Using the Ticket to Work program you may be able to maintain some or all of your Social Security Income for a period of time while working. I like to think of it as a form of “work clearance.” Furthermore, a program called Medicaid Buy-in for Working People with Disabilities (MBI-WPD)  allows individuals with disabilities to have a greater amount of income without risking the loss of their Medicaid benefits, which, as I mentioned above, are especially important for people like me who use CDPA.

While considerations, regarding government benefits and employment, are quite important for people with disabilities, there are additional considerations, which could especially affect those individuals who receive CDPA and their Personal Assistants (PAs). These considerations may include how many hours an individual with disabilities is comfortable working, and how this could affect the number or schedule of working hours for the individual’s PAs. Another consideration may be how it will be best for each person with a disability to commute to and from work, and whether the individual will be accompanied by a PA. Additionally, a CDPA consumer may need to consider whether there are any new tasks with which he or she will require assistance from PAs, in order to succeed in employment. If there are, these will need to be added to the plan of care. These are only a few examples of things to consider as a CDPA participant who is considering employment. You can always contact a CDPA Peer Mentor to discuss your program and how it might be affected should you choose to go to work.

It is very important for each individual CDPA consumer to consider how they will maintain the benefits they need while working. The challenges and solutions will be different for each individual consumer and CDPA program.

While all of these questions and challenges may seem daunting, it is important for all of us to remember that people with disabilities have the right to be employed, and are capable of working.

Do not hesitate to consult the resources I have mentioned to learn more about solutions for people with disabilities’ maintaining their employment and their benefits. Also feel free to search for additional resources on this topic, which may assist you in finding answers to your specific questions.

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