Specialist Advocate (WISA) Services
Trained WISA staff are authorized by the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI), and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) to provide clear explanations about those benefits to individuals who receive disability benefits, and, as authorized to their advocates and referring DARS Counselors, DBVI Counselors, and Case Managers, the effects earned income will have on them, the availability of work incentives to help the individual transition to self-sufficiency, and how to protect health benefits. Once these issues have been addressed, individuals can make informed decisions about going to work.
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Social Security disability benefits include:
SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)
CDB (Child Disability Benefits), formerly DAC (Disabled Adult Child)
WISAs provide services to Social Security disability beneficiaries as authorized by the following agencies:
DARS - Department for Aging & Rehabilitative Services – vocational services
DBVI – Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired – vocational services
DBHDS – Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services – Medicaid Waiver
SSA – Social Security Administration – Ticket to Work Program
What are WISA Services?
WISA meets individually with beneficiaries and family members/advocates to explain benefits and work incentives.
A WorkWORLD benefits analysis with the Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) is the starting place for all WISA services. It is used to explain all relevant benefits/work incentives so beneficiaries can make informed choices.
WISAs serve as the primary initial contact for the Ticket to Work program.
WISAs help beneficiaries gather and organize information, and as authorized assist beneficiaries in applying to the appropriate agency for work incentives, then follow up until those work incentives are approved and implemented.
Beneficiary and DARS/DBVI Counselor are updated throughout the process.
The WISA explains the following to both SSDI and SSI beneficiaries:
Effects of earned income on benefits
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI provides cash and medical benefits to individuals with disabilities who are “insured” by workers’ contributions to the Social Security Trust Fund. These contributions are based on a beneficiary’s earnings (or those of their spouse or parents) as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), which withholds amounts from their pay check each month. Resources do not affect eligibility. Title II of the Social Security Act authorizes SSDI benefits. The cash benefit is typically received on the 3rd of the month or later. The medical insurance associated with SSDI is Medicare.
SSI is designed to help people who are elderly, have disabilities, have little to no income or resources, and it provides cash on a monthly basis to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. The Federal Government funds SSI from general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes), so eligibility is “needs based” and resources affect eligibility. Title 16 of the Social Security Act authorizes SSI benefits. The cash benefit is usually received on the 1st of the month, and the medical insurance associated with SSI is Medicaid.
Reporting Wages to SSA
Beneficiaries agree when applying for disability benefits that they will update their local SSA office by the 10th of the month regarding any changes, including earnings, in the previous month. Beneficiaries should plan accordingly. Failure to do this regularly and completely may result in a serious overpayment of cash benefits, which SSA will want the beneficiary to repay.
For more information about The Choice Group’s credentialed WISAs and the areas
they serve, please click the button below:
Wisa Services / Work Incentives