TN 1 (10-02)

DI 55001.005 Work Incentives Planning, Assistance and Outreach

A. Definition – disabled beneficiary

The term disabled beneficiary used throughout this section means an individual entitled to title II benefits based on disability or an individual who is eligible for (i.e., receiving) Federal Supplemental Security Income cash benefits under title XVI based on disability or blindness.

B. Policy - State grants for work incentive assistance to disabled beneficiaries: protection and advocacy to beneficiaries of social security (PABSS) program

Beneficiaries with disabilities who want to work may need special help to obtain, or regain employment that reduces their dependence on cash benefits. Under a grant program established in section 1150 of the Social Security Act (the Act), SSA awards grant payments to State Protection and Advocacy (P&A) systems so they can provide the protection and advocacy services that a disabled beneficiary may need to secure or regain employment information and advice about obtaining vocational rehabilitation (VR) and employment services. P&A Systems provide assistance and individual representation to beneficiaries with disabilities who are seeking VR services, employment services, and other support services from employment networks (ENs) and other service providers.

Disabled beneficiaries (as defined in DI 55001.005A) who are seeking employment should be given information about how to contact their P&A system whenever it is apparent that P&A services would be appropriate. Accordingly, operating components need to recognize when a disabled beneficiary might benefit from P&A services.

If a beneficiary needs more information about vocational rehabilitation services or employment services, or if there is an indication that a beneficiary needs help with issues that arise in developing, implementing or amending a beneficiary's Individual Work Plan under the Ticket to Work Program, then give the beneficiary contact information for the P&A system serving the beneficiary's area.

TSC/SPIKE/FO/PC staff will inform beneficiaries receiving disability/blindness benefits about the availability of P&A services whenever staff recognizes the need for P&A services, or if a beneficiary receiving disability/blindness benefits requests P&A services. In both situations, up-to-date P&A contact information by State/territory is available on the Protection and Advocacy Systems Grants page, www.ssa.gov/work (the Work Site).

Grants may be awarded each fiscal year to the P&A system in each of the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and to the P&A representing the Native American population.

C. Policy - Benefits Planning, Assistance, and Outreach (BPAO)

The goal of the Benefit Planning, Assistance, and Outreach (BPAO) Program is to better enable beneficiaries with disabilities to make informed choices about work. Section 1149 of the Act, as added by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-170), requires SSA to award cooperative agreements (or grants or contracts) to community-based organizations to provide all disabled beneficiaries with access to benefits planning and assistance services. Cooperative agreements may be awarded throughout every State, the District of Columbia, and the US Territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Each BPAO Project has Benefits Specialists who will:

  • Provide work incentives planning and assistance to disabled beneficiaries;

  • Conduct outreach efforts to those beneficiaries (and their families),who are potentially eligible to participate in Federal or State work incentives programs, and

  • Work in cooperation with Federal, State, and private agencies and nonprofit organizations that serve disabled beneficiaries.

TSC/SPIKE/FO/PC staff will inform beneficiaries who receive disability/blindness benefits about the availability of BPAO services when those services may be needed and, whenever applicable, refer individuals to appropriate SSA field personnel (e.g., claims representative, technical assistant) to answer detailed questions about SSA's work incentives and other employment support programs. Also, refer inquirers, if appropriate, to SSA's internet web page, “the Work Site” at www.ssa.gov/work for additional information and BPAO contact information by State/territory.

SSA has contracted with three universities to provide technical assistance and training to all BPAO Benefit Specialists on SSA's disability programs and work incentives, the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and on other Federal work inc