Section XI: Work Incentives/Government Benefits
This is a Companion Training Manual to accompany the Corporation for National and Community Service publication Creating an Inclusive Environment: A Handbook for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities in National and Community Service Programs. The Inclusion Handbook is available on-line at www.serviceandinclusion.org, or you may call the National Service Inclusion Project at 888-491-0326 (voice/TTY) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key Words and Terms
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Many people with disabilities receive government benefits, sometimes on the basis of their income eligibility, sometimes on the basis of their disability, and sometimes on the basis of both. The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). For some, SSI and SSDI are a sole source of income and provide access to Medicaid and Medicare, crucial sources of health care and services. In addition, a range of other federal, state, and local benefit programs provide housing assistance, transportation, and other services. Often, these government benefits are critical to the ability of a person with a disability to remain self-sufficient.
On June 17, 2008, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (“the HEART Act”), was signed into effect which directs the Social Security Administration to exclude AmeriCorps benefits from being considered as income making AmeriCorps more accessible to people with disabilities. Depending on the type of service program and the type of government benefits, individuals participating in a service program may have their eligibility for government benefits affected. A program manager may partner with a benefit counselor and/or a local Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) Project, which can be found at http://www.ssa.gov/work/WIPA.html to direct individuals to appropriate resources for assistance.
The materials in this section are not to be used to determine whether an applicant’s benefits will be affected (counted as income) by the stipend or educational award which accompanies service. The materials will assist you in developing an understanding of the programs, benefits and the respective federal guidelines on benefits, and the relationship to participation in national service. Resources and references will point you, program directors and your disability organization partners to answers and guidance on an individual basis.
Objectives for this Section
At the completion of this unit, each participant will:
- Demonstrate understanding and knowledge of the government benefits available to people with disabilities
- Demonstrate knowledge of the “Income Disregard” rule as it pertains to eligibility for government benefits for service members with disabilities
- Demonstrate knowledge and significance of the steps managers can take to dispel myths about government benefits restrictions, to increase participation, alleviate concerns and promote retention of individualities with disabilities in service programs
- Demonstrate knowledge of and understand the impact of key terms such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Members in service
- Members involved in capacity-building
- Service and volunteer program managers and staff
- Organization staff
- Organization Board of Directors
- Disability organizations
Visuals and Power Points recommended for this Section
Slides with Notes pages are found at the end of this section.
Also see NSIP webconference of February 15, 2006:
Handouts recommended for this Section
- Your Rights Under Section 504 – Fact Sheet
- AmeriCorps and National Civilian Community Corps Payments
- The Work Site – Social Security Online
- Quick Facts on SSDI and SSI
- How Do SSI and SSDI Compare?
- Heart Act – Fact Sheet
- Social Security Disability Insurance
- What are SSI and SSDI?
- Supplemental Security Income
Supplies/equipment needed: (e.g. markers, flipcharts, LCD)
Use depends on your personal preferences, availability and the activities chosen. Each activity lists any unique needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What government benefits do people with disabilities often receive?
- Can participating in service jeopardize an individual’s eligibility for government benefits?
- How can I prevent this?
Useful references and resources for this Section
Making community technology centers accessible and welcoming
DisabilityInfo.gov is the federal government's one-stop Web site for people with disabilities, their families, employers, veterans, workforce professionals and many others. To support the goals of the New Freedom Initiative President George W. Bush directed federal agencies to create DisabilityInfo.gov in order to connect people with disabilities to the information and resources they need to actively participate in the workforce and in their communities. www.disabilityinfo.gov
AmeriCorps participants receive a stipend or living allowance generally based on minimum wage requirements. Stipends or living allowance payments are wages and are subject to the general rules regarding wages and earned income exclusion for SSI. For information on the earned income exclusion visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/redbook/redbook.htm#EIE. Also, for those who are considered "students," SSI disregards up to an additional $5,670 per year of wages. For information on the Student Earned Income Exclusion visit http://www.ssa.gov/work/ResourcesToolkit/redbook.html#SEIE. As an AmeriCorps participant, you are considered a student if you are not married or head of a household and under age 22.
AmeriCorps Educational Awards
AmeriCorps participants are eligible to receive an educational award after the completion of a specified time of service. Educational awards must be applied to college tuition, vocational training or outstanding college loans. AmeriCorps must pay the educational award directly to an educational institution or to a loan holder for repayment. Educational awards are considered wages but are subject to the income exclusion allowed for grants, scholarships and fellowships. This means that any portion of a grant, scholarship or fellowship used for paying tuition, fees, or other necessary educational expenses is excluded from income for SSI beneficiaries considered "students." This exclusion does not apply to any portion set aside or actually used for food, clothing, or shelter.
After each numbered statement, indicate your current level of knowledge about the following topics on a scale of 1 - 5. 1= nothing, 2 = not much, 3 = somewhat, 4 = some, 5 = a lot
- Government benefits available to people with disabilities
- The description and significance of Section 504
- 'Income Disregard' as it pertains to eligibility for government benefits to service members
- Steps managers can take to direct individuals to appropriate resources for assistance
- The meaning of key terms such as:
- Social Security Disability Insurance
- Supplemental Security Income
- The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act of 2008