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State program helps ease SSD recipients back into work

In recent months, there has been a seemingly-endless stream of news articles and congressional sound bites warning of the imminent exhaustion of the Social Security Administration's reserves and the pressing need to overhaul Social Security Disability and related programs. While there may be some truth to the assertion that the SSA programs need oversight and adjustment, it is troubling that the only proposals thus far involve deep cuts to the SSD programs on which so many people in California rely.

But one state agency has come up with a different way to reduce the number of people who are reliant on Social Security Disability. The program helps recipients seek, obtain and keep jobs. In exchange, participants who find a job will receive an incentive of one $50 gas card per month.

New Hampshire's "NH at Work" is designed to help overcome common roadblocks standing in the way of employment. People who are disabled but employable work with career coaches on Internet job searches, interview techniques, productivity, and interactions with others. The coaches help participants find work that will not only help them earn money, but that will also be fulfilling. Funding for the program comes from the SSA's "Ticket to Work" program.

Participants work toward earning goals, which are initially set low so as not to knock them off their SSD benefits. Eventually, they are expected to earn at least $1,010, which is the threshold at which benefit reductions will begin. But at the same time, the program provides financial advisers who help participants adjust to their new financial situation and reduced benefit checks. And if they lose their jobs, the program helps them have their benefits restored.

Source: New Hampshire Union Leader, "State offers bonus to lure disabled into jobs," Mark Hayward, Jan. 9, 2012

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