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Planning for Possible Changes in Your Benefits

It’s important to know that the cash and health benefits you currently get may be affected by having a job. Public benefit programs including Social Security (which provides a monthly cash check) and Medi-Cal (which provides health insurance to see the doctor) are used by many people with disabilities (you can read more about Medi-Cal in the “Health Care” section in this toolkit).

A lot of people worry that they will lose all their benefits the second they start working – but there are a lot of work incentive programs available! It’s important to understand your options. Because these issues can get complicated and confusing, there are resources available to help you figure things out. This section will guide you through how to find information on how working may affect your benefits and the best ways to go about getting the personal assistance that you may need on the job.

Know Your Benefits

The best way to plan for possible changes in your benefits from Social Security is to be informed.  First and foremost, you need to know what benefits you are currently receiving.  Social Security has two main programs which provide a monthly check to people with disabilities: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). 

The work rules for these two programs are very different, so it’s important to know which benefit program you’re on (and some people are even on both SSI and SSDI).  You can get this information from Social Security by asking for a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY). To request a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) from Social Security, call 1-800-772-1213, or visit your local Social Security office (to find your local office go to: www.ssa.gov/locator/).

Understanding Work Incentive Programs

Work Incentives are special rules that make it possible for people with disabilities who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and/or Medi-Cal to work without the fear of losing the benefits you need.  There is helpful information on the Internet about these topics. 

More detailed information about work incentives

Disability Benefits 101
If you want information on a specific program, type in the name of the program in the “search” box on the top right.  You can also look in the “programs” section for more information on cash benefits and healthcare coverage, or you can use their benefits planning calculators to find out how your cash and healthcare benefits may change when you go to work.

Social Security’s website
If you have additional questions about a particular Work Program, go to this website for Social Security and type in the name of the program in the search box on the top right.

Benefits Planners
If you are having trouble figuring out how your Social Security benefits may change if you go to work, you can visit a Benefits Planner in your area.  Benefits planners can help you figure out how your benefits may change when you start working.  You can find a benefits planner in your area by going to one of these websites:

Creating a Benefits Binder

A Benefits Binder is a great place to keep track of all of your information related to Social Security, Medi-Cal and other benefits.  Your binder should have the following documents and pieces of information:

  • Lined notebook paper so that you can keep track of phone calls, office visits, and names of Social Security staff (these people are often called “claims representatives”) and Medi-Cal service staff that you talk to, whether by phone or in person.
  • All letters and notices that you receive from the Social Security office and the Medi-Cal office.  You should also keep all documents and receipts from Social Security that you may have received after turning in copies of your paycheck.  It is a good idea to have these in case any questions come up about communication that you have had with these offices.  By keeping a good record of this information, you can find any letters that you may have received.
  • All of your original paycheck stubs – paycheck stubs are copies of your paycheck received from work. If you are receiving cash benefits, turning in your pay stubs once a month is required by the Social Security Administration.  When you receive a paycheck, make a copy to keep in your benefits binder and send the original paycheck stub directly to Social Security.  This can help you avoid an overpayment from Social Security which you will have to pay back (see below for more information about overpayments). 

Avoiding Benefits Complications

  • How to Avoid an Overpayment – Social Security will make you pay your cash benefits back to them if you do not report how much money you earned from your job on a regular basis, this is called an “overpayment”.  You should report all money that you earn to Social Security by the 10th of each month.
  • Report all Changes to the Social Security and Medi-Cal offices – It is very important to keep Social Security and Medi-Cal up-to-date with all of your current information; including your address, your living situation (whether you are living with family, with roommates or are living alone) and whether or not your job changes (if you change jobs or you start to earn more or less money).

Personal Assistance Services (PAS)

Having a disability may mean that you need assistance at work and choosing the right person to help you is very important. This care can be provided by a family member, a friend, a volunteer or by someone who gets paid to help you. This person works directly for you and you are in charge of choosing him or her. Paying for personal assistance can become expensive, but don’t worry. You have a couple of options available to help pay for your care. Below, we’ll outline a couple of them.

Agencies such as Regional Centers and programs like In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) may be able to assist you with paying for and finding the right type of personal assistance to fit your needs. IHSS provides personal assistance services to help you live safely in your home. And, thanks to a law passed in 2003, you can use some of your IHSS hours to meet your personal care-related needs at work.

There are two types of Workplace Personal Assistance Services (Workplace PAS). The first type is personal care-related assistance – such as help in the restroom or at your lunch breaks.  IHSS may be able to pay for this type of assistance.  A second type of assistance, called job-related assistance, includes tasks such as help with reading, interpreting, lifting or reaching work materials, and travel assistance between work sites. These job-related services are not available through the IHSS program. However, your employer may have a responsibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws to provide reasonable accommodations for you to perform job-related tasks. Employers are not generally required, however, to provide personal care-related assistance.

A personal care attendant can be very important for achieving your goals and can help you lead a more independent life, so be sure to use all the resources available to you to help you make a good choice.

Additional PAS resources 
For more information about IHSS, including how to apply, go to www.dss.cahwnet.gov/cdssweb/PG139.htm

IHSS Public Authorities are responsible for keeping local lists of screened and trained personal care attendants, making individual referrals, and providing information and training. This is a safe and effective way of finding a personal care attendant. Please check out their website at: www.capaihss.org


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