Hello everyone, my name is Dr. Josie Badger, and I’m here from the United Way’s hashtag I Want To Work Campaign and today I have the privilege of speaking with Joy Smith From AHEDD. Joy can you introduce yourself? Sure, Josie. My name is joy Smith, and I’m from AHEDD. AHEDD is a private nonprofit agency and we are able to serve individuals who are on Social Security benefits and have questions about going to work and what’s going to happen to those benefits. I’m the project director for this program and I’ve actually been a benefits counselor for almost 20 years now. So we have been around for a long time but we still want more people to come to us because there’s a lot of people that need these questions answered and we’re more than happy to help. Wonderful thank you. We have been working on making sure that all individuals who want to work are able to work and benefits are really important part of that. So Joy, can you talk a little bit about what a benefits counselor is? So a benefits counselor is the benefits counselor is a person that can help a Social Security beneficiary understand their Social Security benefits and returning to work all benefits counselors under the Social Security Project are certified by the Social Security Administration for this position so we know a lot of information that you need to know about going back to work. What’s going to happen to those benefits? And this is the critical step for individuals, you know If you have a thought of maybe I’d like to work or I’d like to work or I want to think about working you have to reach out to the Ticket to Work helpline so that they can assist you with navigating these resources that are available to you. We want to work with as many people as we can and a priority for us is transition age youth and a lot of times people think of transition age youth is individuals coming right out of high school but actually Social Security denotes of transition ages anyone aged 14 through 24. So if you’re early on in the process in high school and your IEP is being developed you can include benefits counseling in that so that you can understand what’s going to go on. You might not be getting a job right now but then you know the plan is there for you to begin working at some point while you’re in high school and this program can help you.
That sounds wonderful and I wish I would have reached to a benefits counselor when I was doing this. So how would an individual start working with a benefits counselor? So the first step would be to contact the Ticket to Work helpline that’s the call center within the Social Security Administration and they can direct you to a benefits counselor in your area. There are three programs in Pennsylvania that offer benefits counseling under the Social Security contract: AHEDD covers the western, Pennsylvania area Goodwill covers the central part of the state and Disability Rights Pennsylvania covers the Philadelphia area. So if you would call into the helpline and let’s say you’re 16 years old and you’re there with your parents and you wouldn’t want to find out information about Working and what’s going to go on with your SSI benefits that call center would ask you some questions about what your plans are and then when they note that you’re a transition age youth they will ask you directly. Would you like to be hooked up with a benefits counselor in your area? And if you say yes to that then a referral will be made directly to your local benefits counselor and that benefits council will contact you and your parents or whomever is assisting you they will call you in a few days because we want to make sure we reach out to people in a timely manner and we will go over your specific questions. The first phone call can last you know 15 minutes to a half an hour or so and during that first call we’re going to gather some basic information: What are your plans? What do you want to do? What do you have questions on? At that point also, we’ll ask for some verification from the Social Security Administration so that we make sure we’re giving you accurate information. A lot of times people are on Social Security benefits and they might not be sure what benefit they’re on.
Are they on SSI or are they on SSDI that benefit verification is critical because we want to give people accurate information. There are a lot of myths out there with Social Security benefits and working. So we do not want to you know continue with that. We want to make sure we’re giving you the most accurate information that that you need at that point. Once we get that benefits verification back or you supply that to us then we have another phone call with you and your support system and we go over all the different options for you related to going back to work or starting a job for the first time and what you need to do. Wonderful. So if an individual wanted to come talk to you and they have a meeting set up what information should they bring with them? Well the benefits verification is critical and that’s what’s known as a benefits planning query. The acronym is B P Q Y and this is a document that the Social Security Administration produces I like to call it a little snapshot of your benefits– it’s basically two to three pages long and it gives the details on you know, how long you’ve been on benefits the amount that you’re receiving you know a little bit about any other work incentives you might have used already and you can gather this BPQY either at your local Social Security office, or you can call the 800 number for the Social Security Administration and they can provide you with that. But that’s really the first step that we need in order to move forward and if you also have a resume or those types of things that you want to give to us, that would be helpful also. So you talked a little bit about working with youth. Do you work with people who are in jobs or any other groups? We definitely do we work with anyone aged 14 up until full retirement age. So full retirement age, it spans a lot of years and individuals that we can work with so we do work with individuals who are working or have a plan for work. Let’s say you’re in your 40s and you can’t go through the help line and you had an interview last week where you anticipate having an interview this week, the helpline would follow the same processes with the transition age youth but you would automatically be referred over to us because you are active in the search now for in the process would be the same as far as getting the BPQY. Now as far as if you’re in your 40s, and you’re thinking about work but not yet have a plan just kind of, you know gearing up for that – the helpline will give you some basic information and then they will instruct you on some of the work incentives and then they will also advise you that once you are more into the actual job search and have interviews and those types things are coming up then they say well call back the helpline and that’s when we can refer you over to a local benefits counselor. That’s really great information. Thank you so much for joining us. There’s so much information here and I hope you all are able to access what you need if you need an additional information or in it to do what she just mentioned, this video will be on our Facebook, it will also be on our website www.iwanttoworkpa.org and also please think about calling 2-1-1 if you’re in Pennsylvania they are able to provide supports on various needs you may have you might ask and connect to connect you to benefits counseling. Thank you all. Thank you.