TN 4 (06-22)

DI 55001.005 Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security and Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Programs

A. Definitions

Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC): CWICs provide work incentives counseling services to beneficiaries for Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) programs.

Disabled Beneficiary: Disabled Beneficiary is used throughout this section to mean an individual entitled to title II benefits based on disability or an individual who is eligible for (i.e., receiving) Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cash benefits under title XVI based on disability or blindness.

B. Protection and Advocacy for 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 provides annual funding to governor-designated legal organizations called Protection and Advocacy (P&A) systems, to provide services that a disabled beneficiary may need to remove barriers to work.

SSA awards PABSS grants to P&A systems in each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Norther Mariana Islands, and the P&A representing Native Americans on the Hopi and Navajo Tribal Nations in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

The PABSS program provides free and confidential legal advocacy that a disabled beneficiary may need to remove barriers to employment or self-employment. PABSS provide services to beneficiaries with disabilities who seek employment services from State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies, Employment Networks (ENs), and other providers. PABSS assist beneficiaries experiencing barriers to work. These barriers may be systemic or individual barriers, and range widely. Some examples include access to housing, reliable transportation, reasonable accommodation, and advocacy related to overpayments resulting from work that are a barrier to future work.

TSC/SPIKE/FO/PC staff will inform disability beneficiaries about the availability of P&A services whenever staff recognizes the need for P&A services, if a beneficiary requests P&A services, or if the beneficiary is experiencing barriers to work. Up-to-date P&A contact information by State/territory is available on the Protection and Advocacy Systems Grants page, (the Work Site). Accordingly, operating components need to recognize when a disabled beneficiary might benefit from P&A services.

FO staff should not charge PABSS program staff for verifications and should assist when PABSS funded programs make requests.

C. Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA)

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. Periodically, SSA holds a cooperative agreement competition to provide these services nationally. Services must cover the entire country.

Benefits Planning, Assistance, and Outreach (BPAO) was the original program SSA funded under Section 1149 of the Act. In 2006, this program became Work Incentives, Planning, and Assistance (WIPA).

The goal of the WIPA Program is to provide accurate information, counseling, and analysis of the effect of work on federal, state and local disability benefits and work support programs to beneficiaries engaged in work or self-employment, or about to engage in work or self-employment.

Each WIPA Project has CWICs who will:

  • Meet with SSA disability beneficiaries to gather information about their employment goals and circumstances;

  • Educate the beneficiary on the effect of work on benefits, and how and when to report work activity to SSA and other agencies;

  • Assist beneficiaries with submitting work reports, and other documentation necessary for accessing SSA work incentives;

  • Request and receive verification of the benefits and services the beneficiary uses, including the Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) from SSA;

  • Assist beneficiaries in preparing Plans to Achieve Self-Support, when appropriate;

  • Prepare a written report for the beneficiary describing their unique circumstances related to how work will affect their benefits, including health insurance, when they return to work;

  • Provide information and referral to beneficiaries about programs designed to support employment or reduce the effect of poverty;

  • Conduct limited 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 WIPA services. FO staff may not charge WIPA programs for verification of benefits, including the BPQY and should assist WIPA staff when asked for clarification regarding a beneficiary’s situation, when provided with appropriate releases of information. Whenever applicable, refer individuals to appropriate SSA field personnel (e.g., Claims Specialist, Work Incentive Liaison, or Technical Expert) to answer detailed questions about SSA's work incentives and other employment support programs. Also, refer inquirers, if appropriate, to (the Work Site) for additional information and WIPA contact information by State or territory.

SSA has a contractor to provide technical assistance and training to all WIPA CWICs on SSA's disability programs and work incentives, the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and on other Federal work incentives programs. WIPA Program awardees must secure training and technical assistance for their CWICs about the state and local programs within the WIPA’s service area and their effects on other programs' eligibility and benefits.

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DI 55001.005 - Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security and Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Programs - 06/30/2022
Batch run: 06/30/2022