Deanna on SSI and MA

Deanna had long struggled with her disabilities. She had made it through college several years ago, but her bipolar condition had made it hard for her to keep a job or maintain her friendships. In her “up times,” she floated through life. But the one time she had a job, it didn’t last long. During her downs, her depression was very hard for her and often made her unable to work well. Her employer was understanding, but then, when Deanna was 23, her rheumatoid arthritis became severe, and the relentless pain sent her into a spiral of depression and painkillers. During that time she lost everything: her savings, her car, her friends. Her depression was so bad she couldn’t keep a job.

Deanna didn’t know what to do, so she got online to find out where people in Minnesota could get help when they had a disability and couldn’t work. She found DB101 and not knowing where to begin, decided to Chat with a Hub expert.

The person she spoke with explained that there were 2 common ways to get benefits: from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and state programs. To apply for these programs, she went to her local Social Security office and then to the Hennepin County Human Services & Public Health Department.

She didn’t end up qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), because her short time in the workforce meant she didn’t have enough work credits. However, Deanna did qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), because she met Social Security’s definition of disability and had no income and low resources. That meant she started getting $771 per month directly deposited into her bank account. When she went to the county office, she discovered that she also qualified for $81 per month from the Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) program. Like SSI, MSA is a program to help people with disabilities. And furthermore, anybody who qualifies for MSA also qualifies for SNAP (formerly Food Support/Food Stamps). By filing one application form, she could apply for MSA and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the same time.

The county told Deanna that she could also get Medical Assistance (MA) health coverage due to her low income. She was very relieved, because that would help pay for all of her medical expenses. To get (MA), she had to file a separate application from the application for MSA and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but the county social worker helped her and within a month, she started getting all 3 benefits.

Through MA, Deanna found a treatment for her arthritis, but more importantly, she found a great therapist who helped her manage her bipolar disorder. There were many things that made her life hard. Still, Deanna felt like she had something to offer the world — a way she could help. Deanna’s therapist said that she had worked with many people who had similar conditions to Deanna’s and that she had heard about a program called Ticket to Work that helped people with disabilities find work.

Deanna spent a few minutes on the Internet and learned that Ticket to Work was a program created by Social Security for people in exactly her situation: people with disabilities who wanted to work. It offered all sorts of free services, like job training, help creating resumes, and job search support. Anybody on SSI or SSDI could do the Ticket to Work program, so she signed up. To sign up, she had to choose an Employment Network (EN). The EN would be the office that would help her get ready for and find work.

The Ticket to Work website had a list of ENs Deanna could choose from. She looked over the list and called up a few. She decided to go with Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS), a state agency that had an office in St. Paul. Deanna chose VRS as her EN because it was close to where she lived and when she called up, the person who answered the phone was very helpful.

With Ticket to Work, Deanna automatically qualified for free services at VRS. Since she told them that she wanted a job where she could help people, they helped her find training sessions about how to be supportive, how to lead group support sessions, and how to do some basic counseling. Then, Deanna worked with her VRS counselor to create a resume, practiced doing job interviews, and started her first real job search.