News Article Details

Workshops offer tips for funding disability treatment

The Daily Star - 10/10/2018

Oct. 10--A day of workshops on Social Security programs briefed advocates for those with disabilities Tuesday at Chenango-Delaware-Otsego Workforce in Oneonta.

The free event hosted facilitators from the New York State Office of Mental Health, and was organized by CDO for the first time to reach out to people with disabilities and their social service and health providers.

"We want to get them here in the spirit of self-help," said Otsego County Community Services Peer Engagement Specialist Kate Hewlett. The 15 people at an afternoon session were mostly providers, including a group from the Family Resource Network and a social worker for Bassett Healthcare Network.

"One of the biggest concerns people with disabilities have in going back to work is losing Medicaid," mental health program specialist Chris Coyle told the group when explaining Medicaid Buy-in and 1619(b) programs. Buy-in allows working people with disabilities to stay covered under Medicaid while earning up to about $60,000 a year, while 1619(b) allows earnings of up to about $45,000 for an individual. While the entitlement programs have existed for over a decade, they remain underutilized.

The OMH speakers cautioned against "spend-downs," wherein people with monthly income over the Medicaid eligibility requirement spend that extra money on medical bills to qualify.

They also spoke about choosing a responsible representative and reminded the group that records requests should be free and go directly from doctors to the Social Security Administration.

Other workshops through the day covered the Plan to Achieve Self-Support program, which lets disabled individuals set aside money to pay for items and services needed to achieve a work goal with the intention of reducing or eliminating Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance.

The OMH speakers emphasized that the safety-net programs can be the stepping stones they were intended to be with planning and utilization of the right programs.

In response to frustration aired by attendees about dealing with Social Security or doctors, advocacy specialist Regina Shoen admitted that "whole community mindsets have to change" to extend benefits to everyone who needs them and help them gain control of their lives. She recommended local offices for the aging as great resources for the 55 and over age group.

Recently-hired FRN employees said that the workshops would be helpful in their work with lower-income families.

"A lot of the people we work with are struggling, so if we know the eligibility requirements we're more able to help them," said Lisa Van Tassel.

Erin Jerome, staff writer, may be reached at (607) 441-7221, or at ejerome@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ErinJ .

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(c)2018 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

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