Jan’s Story

Jan has been on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medical Assistance (MA) for many years, due to depression and an anxiety disorder. She has been working as a part-time cashier at a restaurant, but her real goal is to become a professional chef.

Her vocational rehabilitation counselor told her about SSI’s Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program. They both agreed it would be a great way for Jan to save money to pay for vocational school and the other steps she needed to take to start a career as a chef.

Keeping Her SSI Benefit

Jan was relieved to hear that saving money in a PASS would not lower her monthly SSI cash benefit. In fact, setting up a PASS would help her to get the most out of that benefit. She also learned that by setting up a PASS, she’d be able to set aside the countable income from her wages to pay for expenses related to becoming a chef. Social Security would not count that money when they calculated her SSI benefit, nor would they count it against SSI’s $2,000 resource limit for an individual.

“Think of it this way,” said her counselor. “By setting up a PASS, your SSI benefit will go up to help pay for your living expenses, and you’ll be able to invest your wages in achieving your work goal.”

Developing Her Plan

As Jan and her counselor reviewed the PASS application form, Jan realized that it was going to take awhile to complete the application.

Rather than try to complete the application in one sitting, Jan worked on it over a 3-day period. She checked in with a friend and her vocational counselor regularly as she filled out the application, asking them for feedback on what she’d written. She also contacted the St. Paul PASS Cadre and asked them for guidance.

In addition to asking about her professional goal, the application required information on her medical history, work history, and educational background. It also asked about expenses related to achieving her goal. She made a list of all the expenses she would need to pay using her PASS, including tuition for culinary classes, books, knives, transportation to and from school and interviews, uniforms, and other clothes for work.

PASS Approved

Jan completed the application and submitted it to her PASS Cadre, along with a copy of her Individual Plan for Employment (IPE). Three weeks later she got a letter in the mail saying that her PASS had been approved.

Jan was ecstatic! She reviewed the letter, which included information about her monthly PASS set aside amount, her approved expenses, and the date of her first PASS review. She went out and bought a binder to store all her receipts, letters, and bank statements related to her PASS. She also opened a separate checking account for the money she would be would be setting aside for expenses in her PASS.

PASS turned out to be a great tool for Jan. It allowed her to use her SSI cash benefit to pay for her basic living expenses while she pursued her career goal. And in the long run, it enabled her to work at a job she loves, earn a good living, and get off Supplemental Security Income (SSI).