UntitledMy name is Robert and I am a recent graduate from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation & Leisure Studies. My story begins at the Community College level, I was there for four years with an undeclared major. Most educators may or may not know that most individuals with disabilities become what I call “Lifers” at the smaller institutions with no real direction career wise. There is a mindset that “I have my Social Security check. I am cool, I will take classes for fun!” It was not until one my English professors said to me, “What are you still doing here? You should be at the University by now.”

I was part of campus clubs, student government, and volunteering in the City of Stanton where I reside but my instructor felt I could be doing so much more. I had well enough units to graduate. The Director for Parks and Recreation, Jim Box sat me down in his office and spoke to me about getting into Cal State University, Long Beach for their major in Recreation. In 2007, I got accepted to CSULB and at the time I was unaware of all the different programs and services offered to students. Social Security does not directly tell you of their services that are offered to individuals. It can be a tricky process!

For the longest time I allowed Social Security to dictate my life and how I lived it. It was not until I got into CSULB when my mindset began to develop that “Yes. I can work!” Soon my journey lead me to an ambassador for a program that shares information on Social Security’s work incentives. With my new knowledge of work incentive programs, it aided me on my pursuit to move from a disabled person who collects Social Security and lives in poverty to an individual who wants to work full time and be independent! I am currently working part time for the City of Los Alamitos as a Recreation Leader, yet still striving to push forward towards my personal and career goals. I personally wish that I knew of Social Security’s work incentives sooner because I know that it would most likely help me reach my career goals much faster.

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Advice From a Young Professional
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The Basics

Introduction to Work Incentives

If you receive Social Security benefits based on your disability, it is important for you to understand how work will affect your benefits. There are many myths about this topic and sometimes your parents or even professionals you work with may be concerned that you are “taking a risk” of losing your benefits if you work.

If you understand the work incentive system and the need to keep SSA informed about your work and the pay you are receiving, this does not have to be an issue. You can plan your “escape” from benefits and your road to independence and self-support.

If your situation will not allow you to work at a level that will allow total independence from benefits, the work incentives can help you use the benefits to supplement your earnings.

Work always pays.

What is a Work Incentive?

Social Security defines Work Incentives this way – “Special rules make it possible for people with disabilities receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid.” Social Security calls these rules “work incentives”. Social Security has a great tool online that lays out all of the work incentives, identified which program, SSDI or SSI, they apply to and then explains the benefit.

Reference: Social Security Administration. (2015) Disability Research, Work Incentives. Retrieved from  http://www.ssa.gov/disabilityresearch/wi/generalinfo.htm#work

Where to Go for Additional Information and Assistance

Work Incentives are not easy, it takes time to understand and it is important to find someone who understands them and can help answer questions and help you plan.

Social Security has several tools in addition to the link mentioned above. The most comprehensive resource you have available is “The Red Book”. You can access this tool online or ask for it at your local Social Security office.

Reference: Social Security Administration, Disability Research, 2015. Redbook. Retrieved from https://ssa.gov/redbook/