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Benefits Planning Learning Community - April 2024


Welcome to the Benefits Planning Learning Community! Together we are working to remove the fear of loss of benefits as a barrier to employment for people with disabilities.

The purpose of this newsletter is to keep you informed, bring you the most up to date information about changes to benefits, highlight important resources, and help you have conversations, answer questions, and provide benefits planning to the people you support.


Key Messages About Work and Benefits

Five things everyone (and we mean everyone!) needs to know and communicate about work and benefits:

  1. Work and benefits can go together
  2. All public benefit programs in Minnesota support work
  3. People who work can earn more money than those who don't-- even if their benefits change
  4. Benefits should not be the reason someone chooses not to work
  5. Benefits planning helps people see how work is possible, work to their full potential, save money, and get ahead financially


Upcoming Events

Level 3 Benefit Coach Training

For those of us who spend a lot of our time talking about benefits and want to be able to provide benefit coaching as a service to people there's Level 3 Benefit Coach Training. Make sure to complete Level 1 and Level 2 training in the Benefit Planning Toolkit first and get permission from your supervisor. Sign up to be on the waitlist for the next training with our web-based application to get your Benefit Coach Certification.

The next Level 3 Benefit Coach Training is set to take place beginning on June 3rd, 2024. Go to Disability Hub MN - Benefits Coach Certification to learn more and get signed up for the waiting list.

Benefits Planning Learning Community Quarterly Meeting

The Benefits Planning Learning Community Quarterly Meeting is your place to get together with other professionals to connect, learn more about incorporating benefits planning into your agency culture, get updates on upcoming benefits changes, and discuss benefits related topics. The meeting is open to any professional who supports people with disabilities in employment. The next meeting will be held May 30th at 2 pm. Follow this Zoom link to attend.


Benefit Updates

Changes in SSI Calculations

Social Security (SSA) announced in a blog post recently that they will no longer be including food for In Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) calculations. Before this change the value of food received by an SSI beneficiary could cause a decrease in a person's SSI check. Because of this change beneficiaries may see an increase in their benefit and going forward this should not be a concern for SSI beneficiaries. This change is set to begin starting September 30th, 2024. For more information visit SSA's post about the change here.

COVID Related Overpayment Waivers

SSA will now be waiving COVID-related overpayments that occurred between March 20th, 2020 and April 2023. These waivers should be applied automatically and those who qualify are set to be notified of the waiver by mail. Those who aren't automatically eligible will receive a notification as well letting them know how to request the waiver if they believe they could qualify. Most of these cases are scheduled to be resolved and refunds received by June 2025.

Changes to Overpayment Processing

Social Security (SSA) Commissioner Martin O'Malley announced a plan to improve how SSA handles overpayments. One that will take immediate effect is a change from withholding 100% of a person's benefit by default if no payment plan has been reached. Instead, beneficiaries can expect the automatic withholding rate of 10% moving forward. Also, the overall time to pay back an overpayment has been raised from 36 months to 60 months. For more details on these changes and others that have been proposed visit SSA's blog post here.

MA Enrollees Asset Verifications

When renewals first began for MA recipients after the COVID emergency rules were lifted enrollees were granted extra time to reduce assets accumulated during this time and were not subject to the customary MA asset limits during their first annual renewal. Beginning with July 2024 renewals, that asset disregard will no longer be in place and MA recipients who are subject to an asset limit will be required to verify those assets again. The Asset Verification Service (AVS) will be used to expedite the process by electronically verifying certain assets instead of requesting paper verifications wherever possible. For more information on this change visit DHS's Bulletin 24-21-03.


Program Spotlight

HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency Program

With the Earned Income Disregard no longer an option for people on HUD programs we feel that it is important to highlight an alternative work incentive that will allow people to work and still improve their financial situation while accessing these programs. The Family Self Sufficiency Program (FFS) is available to those who are in public housing, project-based section 8 housing, or who have a section 8 housing choice voucher. Through this program when a person goes to work and their rent is raised based on their income the difference between their former rent and new rent is deposited in an account that they can then access upon completion of the program (which corresponds with them reaching their financial goals). There is a really helpful video on this work incentive we encourage you to watch to get more information as well as DB101's article HUD Benefits and Work that provides more details.

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