David: Back on the Job

In 2003, David fell from a two-story building and suffered an extensive back injury. The injury was severe enough to make him eligible for Social Security disability benefits. David, who is now 50 years old and lives in Randolph County, NC, is back in the workforce. When David contacted Community Enterprises, a Member with the American Dream Employment Network (ADEN), in December 2017, he had not worked since his accident. He worried that if he tried to go back to work and failed, he would lose his Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payment and Medicare.

Through Community Enterprises, David accessed the following services and supports that enabled him to achieve his dream of going back to work:

  • Worked with Community Enterprises to develop an Individual Work Plan that identified his interests, employment goals and support needs;
  • Received benefits counseling and learned about how work would affect his benefits and what work incentives were available to him to “try work;’
  • Identified job leads, completed job applications, practiced job interviews and talked to employers about job accommodation needs;
  • Learned how to report employment changes and monthly income to Social Security; and
  • Met monthly with a counselor at Community Enterprises to identify new and ongoing needs to secure and retain employment plus tracking progress.

In February 2018, David secured a part-time job through a temporary employment agency as a warehouse worker for a local polyurethane foam manufacturer. The manufacturing warehouse accommodated him by structuring his job so that he did not have to lift more than 10 pounds. David was so successful in his job that, in July 2018, he was hired as a permanent employee with a $2 per hour pay raise. In 2019, David secured a new job with another local manufacturer who offered him $2.50 more pay per hour and a full-time work schedule.

David has completed his “Trial Work Period,’ a work incentive offered by Social Security that allows beneficiaries the opportunity to earn as much as they want for up to nine months! He is now earning over the “Substantial Gainful Activity” level (for 2019 is $1,220/month) and he is no longer receiving his monthly SSDI cash payment. However, through his benefits counseling with Community Enterprises, David knows he still has a safety net if something happens and he is unable to sustain working at the level he is currently working.

After his Trial Work Period, David entered into his “Extended Period of Eligibility,” another Social Security work incentive. If David’s employment situation changes in the next 36 months and his gross earnings fall below the “Substantial Gainful Activity” level, he will receive his full SSDI cash benefit again without the need to reapply.

Now that David is working, Community Enterprises continues to provide support services to help him retain his employment and explore new goals, such as:

  • Ongoing benefits counseling so he is aware of additional work incentives still available to him;
  • Job advancement strategies;
  • Financial planning, including developing a financial plan and developing a budget;
  • Referral to other community programs as needed; and
  • Monthly contact to track progress, identify needs and set new goals.

Working has provided David with opportunities to achieve his dreams and plan for his future. For instance,

  • Transportation to work was a huge barrier for David. Living in a rural community, David had limited access to public transportation. He relied on friends and family to give him rides to work. In June 2018, he was able to purchase a car.
  • In February 2019, David achieved his goal of moving from an apartment into a rental home. His long-term goal, in the next five to 10 years, is to possibly to buy a house of his own.
  • While David is consistently working 40 hours per week, he is not yet a full-time employee with benefits. In April 2019, he applied for a full-time permanent position with his company and received a second interview. Unfortunately, his employer implemented a hiring freeze. Community Enterprises provides interview guidance, so David is prepared for an interview when the employer’s hiring freeze is lifted. Community Enterprise is also working with David to develop a monthly budget for him to track and follow with a goal to save money toward his emergency fund.

David reports that Social Security’s Trial Work Period work incentive gave him the opportunity to test his ability to go back to work and build his confidence; exactly the intention of the SSA incentive. By assigning his ticket with the American Dream Employment Network and working with Community Resources, David now enjoys meaningful employment, in addition to being an active part of his community again.

Congratulations to David for his success on the job, and for achieving gainful employment once again, which is the goal of the Ticket to Work program! The American Dream Employment Network is available to support other individuals, like David, receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. For more information on how you can assign your Ticket to Work to the American Dream Employment Network, please contact ADEN at 844-687-2336. Employment service providers across the country are invited to discuss the possibility of becoming an Employment Network under the American Dream Employment Network.

Community Enterprises LLC, a private owned service provider located in North Carolina, joined the American Dream Employment Network in May 2016.  Owner Karen Hamilton assists job seekers with disabilities to obtain and retain employment. As a Certified Work Incentives Counselor, she also advises individuals about their disability benefits and available work incentives through the Social Security Administration. Karen provides virtual employment services through the eastern half of the U.S.

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