BerthaMy name is Bertha and I graduated from California State University, Long Beach in 2005. In 1979, I suffered a spinal cord injury. This traumatic event left me a quadriplegic. Suddenly, I was faced with a whole new set of challenges (in addition to those of single motherhood) i.e. personal care assistance, accessibility, and learning the needs and limitations of my new physical condition.

While grappling with my new circumstances, I became a stay-at-home mom. During that time, with the assistance independent living centers, I moved from Michigan to Southern California. Because I require almost total personal care, the guidance and support of their personal assistance coordinators, in particular, proved key to my independence. After my daughter grew up and left home, I decided to return to school. Again, I was the beneficiary of unfailing support and encouragement via the Department of Rehabilitation.

There, my vocational rehabilitation counselor told me about Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), one of Social Security’s work incentive programs. She explained that PASS might help me save towards my goal of becoming employed. Then she referred me to a PASS cadre who thoroughly described how the program works: the types of assistance it provides, its eligibility requirements and rules & regulations. I applied, was accepted, and therefore able to save enough money to purchase a modified van, so I would have reliable transportation for work. This helped me obtain work as the personal assistance/outreach coordinator at an independent living center. It is extremely gratifying to “pay it forward” by sharing knowledge I gained while on PASS.

Advice From a Young Professional

The Basics

Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) helps an SSI or SSDI beneficiary use earned income or resources to save money in a special protected account to achieve employment goals. You can use it to go to school, get training, start a business, etc. Your PASS Plan is designed to help you work your way off of needing disability benefits.

PASS funds can be used for:

  • Tuition, books, fees, supplies, etc for school or training
  • Transportation to and from work
  • Child care
  • Attendant care
  • Employment services (job coaching, resume writing)
  • Supplies to start a business
  • And many more things

A PASS can fund any goods/services that will enable you to achieve your work goal and reduce your reliance on benefits.