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Benefits Counseling Services

What are Work Incentives?

Special rules apply when a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, DWD, CDB) beneficiary or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient returns to work. Sometimes these rules can be complicated; there are many different types of work incentives that may protect your eligibility for MaineCare or Medicare, and that may make you eligible for funding to advance your career. Work incentives are different depending on whether you receive SSI or Social Security Disability. If you receive both benefits, both sets of rules apply.

What Types of Services Can I Expect?

Tell us your questions about working and benefits and we will talk with you about what work incentives are available to you. When you have a financial goal, either projected or actual, we will develop a written report for you. This report will explain your current benefits and outline a plan describing how to use work incentives.

We can also assist you in identifying services that you might need along the way and connect you with resources to assist you in finding or maintaining your employment goal.

Work Incentives Assistance

Your CWIC can help answer questions about benefits even after you return to work. We are here to help you to understand how to report your income, how to use the work incentives and what resources may be available to you while working. When you begin working or your income from work increases, we are also available to assist you in considering your health care coverage options and will talk with you about how work incentives can be used over time.

With your permission, we will also work with other service providers to make sure you get the help you need to achieve employment success. In the event that you need protection and advocacy services, we can help you connect with these services as well.

You might meet a CWIC at a workshop or a meeting in your community. In these settings, CWICs answer questions about general work-related Social Security rules and incentives and can refer you to related services for which you may be eligible. These sessions are offered statewide as requested and as resources allow.

Also available directly from the Social Security Administration are Work Incentive Seminar Event (WISE) webinars offered monthly. To register for an upcoming webinar which you can view from your own computer, click here . This link will also give you the option of watching a previously recorded WISE event.

Transition-Aged Youth with Disabilities Assistance

Social Security defines transition-aged youth as individuals aged 14-25 who are making the transition from school to work and/or further education. Transition-aged youth with disabilities face unique challenges in transitioning from school to work, and some may even think working is not part of their future.

Successful entry into the workforce can greatly enhance a person’s long-term earnings potential and quality of life. Summer jobs, internships and volunteer work can help young people develop job stills, soft skills (learning how to present well and interact effectively with others), gain connections with employers for future job searches, and learn about career choices. Linking knowledge gained at the worksite with a planned program of study increases school attendance and engagement, decreases dropout rates and even makes it more likely that a student will attend college.

Many students under age 22 can work without their SSI (Supplemental Security Income) being affected (up to $1,750 a month, capped at $7,060 in 2014). Otherwise their SSI would be reduced about $1 for every $2 they earn. This is called the Student Earned Income Exclusion. A PASS plan may also help you save money for your job goal.

If you get Childhood Disability Benefits other work incentives may be available. For more information download our Trial Work Period and Extended Period of Eligibility fact sheets.

How Can I Get CWIC Services?

Maine Medical Center's Benefits Counseling Services are provided to individuals across the state. Every effort is made to provide in-person, community-based services. Sometimes due to high demand for service and the large geographic area, a combination of mail, telephone, and videoconferencing services may be used.

To request individualized services, please complete and return the Request for Services form, both Social Security Administration Consent for Release of Information forms (A and B) and the State of Maine Vocational Rehabilitation Consent for Release of Information form which can all be downloaded in our BSC Referral Packet. Please mail or fax completed form to the address below.

  • MMC Vocational Services
  • Attn: BCS Project Specialist
  • 22 Bramhall Street
  • Portland, ME 04102
  • Fax: 207-662-6789

You will hear back from us to coordinate an appointment as soon as possible after we receive and process these forms. The forms allow us to verify any status you have with the Maine Bureau of Rehabilitation Services and the benefits you receive from Social Security; without the forms we cannot give you the most accurate information.

Why Is This Offered by Maine Medical Center?

Maine Medical Center (MMC) has a thirty-year history of providing employment services to people with disabilities. When the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 authorized the creation of Benefits Planning, Assistance and Outreach (BPAO) programs across the country, MMC Department of Vocational Services (DVS) recognized the importance of providing "benefits counseling" services to people with disabilities receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare and MaineCare. This information is critical to help people make informed decisions about their benefits when considering a return to work.

MMC DVS applied for and was awarded the BPAO cooperative agreement from the Social Security Administration to provide this service to the State of Maine from 2001-2006. From 2006-2012 continued services were possible through the awarding of SSA's Work Incentives Planning and Assistance cooperative agreement to MMC. Although SSA WIPA funding ended in July 2012, continued services were made possible through utilization of other federal funding and strong state support. In September 2013 SSA's Work Incentives Planning and Assistance cooperative agreement was again awarded to MMC DVS.

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Maine Medical Center is a member of the MaineHealth System