WISE Webinar 2017-04: Working with a Federal Contractor

>>Hi, everyone. This is Nancy Bouteau [assumed spelling] with
NDI Consulting. Thank you very much for joining us today. And we want to welcome you to our WISE event,
Ticket to Work: Working with a Federal Contractor. We greatly appreciate you taking the time
this afternoon to participate in what will be a very interesting and informative webinar. We had over 1,000 people register for the
webinar today, and it looks like right now we have a good deal of people — roughly 250
folks and counting — dialing in. So thank you very much for being here with
us today. We greatly appreciate it. And without further delay, I’ll go into some
of our housekeeping. So for accessing today’s webinar, you can
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computer or if you prefer or need to listen by phone, you can dial toll free 1(800)832-0736. And the access code is 8458462 and then the
pound sign. For accessibility today, real-time captioning
is provided during the webinar. The captions can be found in the captioning
pod, which appears below the slides you’re looking at right now. You can also access captioning online by going to http://www.captionedtext.com/client/event.aspx? CustomerID=846&EventID=3216130. So we know that we will get a lot of questions
and answers today. For Q&A, please use the Q&A pod, which is
to the right of the screen — the slides you’re looking at right now to submit any questions
that you have during the webinar, and we will direct those questions accordingly during
the question and answer portion. We will also try to get to your questions
during the presentation, but please know that we have a lot of people on the phones, a lot
of people on the line, and we do have a lot of questions that will be coming in. If you’re listening by phone and you’re not
logged into the webinar, you can also ask questions. Just email your questions to [email protected] And please note that this webinar is being
recorded, and the archive will be available within two weeks on the Choose Work website
at www.choosework.net/webinars-tutorials/webinar-archives.html. If you need any technical assistance during
the webinar, please use the Q&A box and send a message or a question. Or you can also email [email protected] So as I said, we have a very full agenda for
you today. Again, my name is Nancy Bouteau with NDI Consulting. We also have presenters with us Gregory Bell
and Sherman Gifford with The Choice Group. And then we also have Marlene Ulisky with
us from NDI Consulting who will also be available to answer questions. So we are discuss some things such as what
is Section 503 of Rehabilitation Act; we’re going to talk about self-identification and
reasonable accommodation notification; we’re also going to talk about your employer team
and your employment team; we’re going to talk about other resources; and then, again, we
will do our best to have time at the end for questions and answers. So what I would like to do now is introduce
our speakers. We have Gregory Bell with us, who is currently
a senior consultant with The Choice Group, which is an employment network under the Ticket
to Work Program. And they are also an accredited vendor to
Virginia’s vocational rehabilitation agencies with which they collaborate closely to develop
best practices and effective models for public/private partnerships. Gregory has over 15 years of experience in
the human services field, including having worked with Maximus Federal Services as a
senior account specialist, working with employment network and state vocational rehabilitation
administrators in every state along the East Coast. Gregory also holds a master’s in business
administration from Averett University and is a member of NENA, which is the National
Employment Network Association. Also with us today we have Sherman Gifford. Sherman is the vice-president of The Choice
Group, which provides career counseling, employment support, and work incentive services to individuals
with disabilities throughout most of the state of Virginia. The Choice Group is an employment network
under the Ticket to Work Program and is an accredited vendor to Virginia’s vocational
rehabilitation. And as we discussed before, they work closely
with public and private partnerships. And Sherman also serves on the board of NENA,
the National Employment Network Association. Sherman is also a certified work incentive
specialist, a certified rehab counselor, a certified rehab provider, and a licensed professional
counselor. So we greatly appreciate them both being here
with us today and sharing their great wealth of expertise. And as I said before, we also have Marlene
Ulisky with us. She will be answering questions along with
Greg and Sherman and presenting. And of course, we will try to get to as many
questions as possible. So with that said and with our great agenda
ahead of us, I would like to turn it over to Greg.>>Thank you, Nancy. And again, welcome to the WISE webinar on
Section 503. Over the next few slides, I’m going to talk
about Section 503 regulations and how you as a beneficiary can benefit from the updated
policy regulations. What is the Rehabilitation Act? The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination
on the basis of disability and programs conducted by federal agencies and programs receiving
federal financial assistance and federal employment and in the employment practices of federal
contractors. Creating opportunities and eliminating barriers
to employment is a core principle of the Rehabilitation Act. In terms of Section 503, the Rehabilitation
Act is increasing opportunities for individuals with disabilities. An example of this is federal contractor job
groups must employ a specific number of individuals with disabilities, which we’ll speak to later
in the presentation. What is Section 503? On March 24th, 2014, new rules for Section
503 of the Rehabilitation Act took effect covering employers who are federal contractors
or subcontractors. These new rules strengthened the enforcement
of the Americans with Disabilities Act and put into place new employer requirements around
recruiting, hiring, and accommodating, and/or retaining individuals with disability. Again, I would like to emphasize the revised
regulation strengthened the affirmative action provisions to aid contractors in their efforts
to recruit and hire individuals with disabilities and improve job opportunity for individuals
with disabilities as well. I’m going to talk a little bit about affirmative
action. Affirmative action is the action or policy
favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education. Specifically the employment discrimination
this affirmative action is designed to address is related to disabilities. For example, Section 503 requires federal
contractors who have 50 or more employees and/or $50,000 in contracts to have an updated
affirmative action plan. Affirmative actions includes training programs,
outreach efforts, and other positive or proactive steps. These procedures should be incorporated into
the company’s written personnel policy. Yes, as an additional point, employers with
written affirmative action programs must implement them, and keep them on file, and update them
annually. So what are some of the highlights of Section
503? The regulations established a nationwide 7%
utilization goal for qualified individuals with disabilities rather. Contractors apply the goal to each of their
job crews or to their entire work force if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees. Contractors must conduct an annual utilization
analysis and assessment of the problem areas and establish specific action-oriented programs
to address any identified problems. In other words, federal contractors who are
not meeting this goal must take steps to address these areas, which can improve the opportunities
of individuals with disabilities to be hired, promoted, and/or retained. The regulations require that contractors invite
applicants to self-identify as individuals with disabilities at both the pre-offer and
post-offer phases of the application process. Additionally, the regulations also require
that contractors invite their employees to self-identify as individuals with disabilities
every five years. This language is posted in the self-identification
form, which we will talk about on the next screen. This section we will look at identification
and reasonable accommodation notification. What is self-identification? Self-identification means that you have the
opportunity to disclose your disability to your current or potential employer. The ability for federal contractors to capture
this information can help federal contractors meet their 7% utilization rate if you are
hired or are currently employed with a federal contractor but have not previously disclosed
that you have a disability. There’s a form that federal contractors utilize
that allows individuals with disabilities to self-identify. If you would like to view this form, please
see the link at the bottom of the page. The voluntary self-ID form answers the questions:
Why am I being asked to complete this form; how do I know I have a disability; and if
there’s a need for a reasonable accommodation. These are all areas that we will touch on
in the next few slides. Why am I being asked to complete this form? So why would an applicant or current employee
be asked to complete the self-identification form? Part of the data collection requirements under
Section 503 that federal contractors must meet include documenting the total number
of jobs offered to and the total number filled by those who have self-identified as individuals
with disabilities. Federal contractors can review this information
and measure how well they are doing. For example, if a federal contractor’s not
doing well in this area, they may put additional efforts into helping change the internal culture
so that more applicants and current employees will self-identify. There’s also a box on the form that you can
check if you do not wish to disclose anything. Additionally, federal governments use the
same form for the same reasons. As stated in the previous slides, the information
you provide will allow federal contractors to measure their efforts. Keep in mind that any information you provide
will be kept private. There is currently no policy or requirements
that the hiring manager is required to see your self-disclosure information. Federal contractors are constantly participating
in trainings in their outside firms that specifically work with federal contractors and/or HR departments
on compliance issues, including self-identification and record keeping. Under the Section 503 regulations, the OFCCP
voluntary self-identification of disability form must be kept separate from the job application. It cannot be placed in a personnel file, and
its contents must be kept confidential. Therefore, managers and supervisors cannot
have any knowledge of the existence of an applicant or employee’s disability from the
OFCCP self-identification form. A disability would be known to a manager or
supervisor if it’s obvious and/or if the employer knows about it from interactions with the
employee and/or his or her representative. So how do I know if I have a disability? If you have a physical, mental, or medical
condition that has limited major life activity or caused barriers, you may have worked with
your state vocational rehabilitation agency or similar state agency. In addition, if you’re receiving SSI or SSDI
disability benefits, which is something Mr. Gifford from the The Choice Group will speak
about shortly, Social Security has already determined that you have a disability. Just as any additional piece of information,
the voluntary self-identification disclosure form language and use instructions do not
allow an employer to ask what type of disability a person has. So in short, it’s kept private and confidential;
unless it’s obvious to your hiring manager, no one should know. What are reasonable accommodations? A reasonable accommodation is assistance with
or changes to a position or workplace that will enable an employee to do his or her job
despite having a disability. Under the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities
Act, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with
disabilities unless doing so will pose and undo hardship. The Code of Federal Regulations states that
as a matter of affirmative action, if an employee with a known disability is having significant
difficulty performing his or her job and it is reasonable to conclude that the performance
problem may be related to the known disability, the contractor shall confidentially notify
the employee of the performance problem and inquire whether the problem is related to
the employee’s disability. If the employee responds affirmatively, the
contractor shall confidentially inquire if the employee’s in need of a reasonable accommodation. Talking little bit more about accommodations. The majority of accommodations will cost nothing
for the employer to make. The rest will typically cost an employer less
than $500. If a federal contractor’s working to increase
their 7% utilization rate of individuals with disabilities who self-identify, providing
a reasonable accommodation to a current or potential employee who will request one would
be to the federal contractor’s benefit. So some of the examples of accommodations
include a screen reader for someone who may have a visual impairment, maybe speech recognition
software, even a flexible schedule allowing work from home, or things as simply as an
adjustable chair for someone who may have a back impairment. You could include a modified keyboard in that
as well. Nancy will be providing resources at the end,
such as JAN, the Job Accommodation Network. JAN’s website is terrific and provides an
overview of some accommodations requested by disability, free consulting services for
individuals with disability, and information on how to request a reasonable accommodation. In addition, there have been webinars on accommodations. And I would encourage everyone to visit www.choosework.net
for any upcoming webinars. So in conclusion, just a few points to keep
in mind. One, Section 503 requires federal contractors
to meet a 7% utilization rate, which includes hiring, promoting, and retaining individuals
with disabilities. Self-identification is voluntary; however,
doing so allows federal contractors to change and improve their internal culture and processes,
which ultimately benefits you. And your information will be kept private
and confidential. Federal contractors can work with you on providing
reasonable accommodations as well. So it’s really about asking if you feel comfortable
identifying that you have a disability, disclosing that information, and they have the ability
to work with you. That concludes the portion of Section 503. Nancy, I’ll turn it back to you unless there’s
some questions regarding Section 503 or self-identification.>>Great. Thank you very much, Greg. And we did have several questions that came
in regarding your piece of the presentation. The first is going back a few slides, you
had mentioned that a disability is a physical, or mental, or medical condition that substantially
limits a major life activity. And we have somebody who wants to know what
are those major life activities?>>Anything that would impact your life, your
ability to let’s say work is a major life; your ability to take care of yourself would
be a major life issue. So any of those things that would fall into
that category. And in addition, if there are questions about
that, if an individual’s receiving SSI or SSDI, they would automatically qualify. If an individual has questions about that,
if they aren’t receiving SSI or SSDI, they can reach out to their state vocational rehabilitation
agency and ask for an intake. And they can qualify if that individual has
a disability or not as well.>>Well, great. Thank you. And so I’m going to clarify because the next
question was, “If I’m on SSI, do I automatically qualify for Section 503?” So that answer would be yes.>>Yes. If you’re receiving SSI and/or SSDI — disability
benefits — you qualify based on that.>>Okay, great. And then you mentioned self-identification,
but how do I know — this is another question — how do I know that my information is kept
confidential?>>Based on the regulations that information
should be kept private and confidential. If you have questions or concerns about that,
you can reach out — or if you feel as though you have been discriminated against — you
can reach out to protection and advocacy. And I would encourage anyone who feels that
way to visit the choosework.net/findhelp website. But the information based on the policy and
regulations is that not even the hiring manager should see any of the information on your
self-identification form. Again, if the disability is obvious, you know,
they may know. But that information is kept confidential
and private based on regulations. And oftentimes federal contractors go through
audits and they have to be in compliance. So that information may come up on the back
end as well through an audit or a compliance issue.>>Great. I think that will help alleviate some of the
fears that some of the people on the webinar have. So we also had a question, Greg, and that
is, “Can you provide me with any resources on where I can find federal contracting jobs?”>>Yeah. And I want to encourage individuals if they
are receiving SSI or SSDI, many employment networks work with federal contractors through
the work that they do. And it’s part of the Ticket to Work Program,
really being in the community, working with federal contractors, working with employers
in general. And so many of those resources are there with
the employment network who have those contacts. You can also, you know, search on job boards
— Indeed, Monster — many of those job boards have federal contractor jobs. Federal contractors are all over the country
in every state. And so any job board that you would go on
would have access and resources to those. But I would also encourage, again, individuals
to work with their employment networks or employment networks who have those connections
and work with employers on a daily basis as well.>>Great, thank you. And so we just had another question come in
regarding you mentioned something about protection and advocacy. So if somebody feels that they’ve been discriminated
against, is there protection and advocacy available in every state?>>Yes. Protection and advocacy is available in every
state. Again, if you would like to visit choosework.net/findhelp/,
that’s where you can locate for your state your protection and advocacy advocate.>>Okay, great. And we have had several questions come in,
as is typical. I think we have about 400 people on the line. Greg, I’m just going to ask you one more before
we turn it over to Sherman, but my guess is we’ll come back to you a little later on for
some more questions. But the last one that we have right here is,
“Is there a best time to self-identify? Would it be before getting a job or would
it be after getting a job?”>>I think I would encourage individuals to
self-identify when they feel comfortable. And I will say this in addition to that, if
you self-identify and if you need accommodations, the sooner you self-identify, the sooner that
federal contractor or that employer can work with you in helping meet those accommodations
actually so you can move forward with the job. So at the end of the day it’s really about
each person being comfortable and at that point in time when they feel comfortable self-identifying. But the sooner you’re able to self-identify
as it relates to meeting an accommodation, the sooner the employer can help.>>Great, that’s great information. Thank you, Greg. All right. We are going to move on to the second portion
of our presentation. So with that, Sherman, I will turn it over
to you.>>Okay, thank you, Nancy. And hello, everyone. And thanks again for joining us today. This section — let me put the slide up — this
section will look at the two Social Security disability programs — excuse me — and then
what Section 503 means to you. So SSDI — Social Security disability insurance
or SSDI is a federal insurance program for applicants with a documented disability. If you look at your payroll checks you may
have received in the past, you will most likely see a deduction for Social Security or FICA,
which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act. This is the payment for the insurance premium
for this program. Once you have worked enough at high enough
wages, you are eligible for SSDI if you develop a disability. Social Security looks at this program first
when they consider your disability application because it’s an insurance program. SSDI usually — I’m sorry, typically includes
two types of benefits: A cash benefit and a health insurance benefit, in this case Medicare. Let me advance the screen. SSI, supplemental security income was developed
after SSDI. Like SSDI, it provides a monthly cash benefit
and access to health insurance. In this case it’s Medicaid. SSI is not an insurance program; it is intended
to provide support for people who have not worked long enough at high enough levels to
qualify for SSDI. SSI is funded from public money. So being eligible for it is based on need. In order to determine this, Social Security
asks applicants about their sources of money, living arrangements, savings accounts, etc. There are limits to all of these in order
to qualify for SSI. So the Social Security disability benefit
programs are in each of these programs. You may have experienced a situation where
someone who knows one program tries to be very helpful by explaining all the rules. The problem is that with two very different
programs, there are two very different sets of rules. So despite their best intentions, their guidance
may be misleading. For this reason it’s important to talk with
trained and qualified benefits and work incentives practitioners to get accurate information
about your particular situation. That way you will understand the effects that
earned income will have on your cash and health benefits and be able to plan accordingly. We’ll talk more about that later. One thing both programs do is identify you
as a person with a disability, which brings us to Section 503 again. So what do the changes to Section 503 mean
for you? Greg has talked about this some. The Section 503 has been described as the
most significant legislation for people with disabilities since the Americans with Disabilities
Act, the ADA. The reason for that is the sheer number of
employment opportunities it makes available to them. We’ve already looked at the intent of the
legislation. As you can imagine, federal contractors are
eager to find organizations who can refer qualified individuals with disabilities for
their job openings. We have talked to federal contractors who
welcome assistance in identify qualified applicants and also making it known to their own employees
who have disabilities and choose to disclose them. But there is support available for them, that
they may be able to accept raises or consider full-time work where it might have been only
part time if they understand about their benefits. So that’s an example. This is where the Ticket to Work Program and
your state vocational rehab programs come in. So what is the Ticket to Work Program? Ticket to Work Program is Social Security’s
program to provide encouragement and support to SSDI and SSI beneficiaries who choose to
work and transition off of cash benefits and really be better off for it. We’re very serious when we talk with potential
applicants that we want to make sure that they fully understand, that they make an informed
choice, and that they have the opportunity to have more income and live a better life
off of benefits. And we help them explore that option. So there are work incentives Social Security
has that help you maximize your benefits while you transition to work and self-sufficiency. Social Security reviews your situation on
a cycle. Usually it’s a one-, three-, five-, or seven-year
cycle to determine if you have experienced medical improvement. This is called a continuing disability review
or medical review. If your ticket is assigned and you are making
timely progress towards your goals, Social Security has included a provision in the Ticket
to Work Program that you will be exempt from that review. So you won’t be kicked off the disability
rolls. Your VR or EN can tell you more about this
protection. EN’s and work incentive planning and assistance
benefits consultants — that’s a lot, I know — the work incentive planning or assistance
is called WIPA. They can tell you more about your benefits
and the effects of earned income on your cash and health benefits. You can find ones in your area at choosework.net,
as Greg said, under the find help tab. You have already taken an important step in
making an informed decision about whether this program is right for you by joining us
today on this call. As this slide indicates, the Ticket to Work
Program supports career development for people with disabilities who want to work. It is not a separate set of rules allowing
you to work or save more. The SSDI and SSI rules still apply. But the program provides support within those
rules for your decision to go to work. You must be 18 through 64 to qualify, and
services are always free and voluntary. Your employment team. The Ticket to Work Program ensures that you
have a choice when it comes to selecting your employment team. The employment networks. Ticket to Work service providers are called
employment networks. Their symbol on the Ticket to Work site or
Choose Work site is the blue triangle with the letters EN, as shown on the screen. Just as the program is voluntary for disability
beneficiaries, it is also voluntary for service providers. Either you or the EN can terminate the agreement
at any time. Initial conversations with EN’s will focus
on the services that you as a beneficiary need and the services that they as an EN can
provide. So you can determine if it’s a good match
for both parties. This slide shows services that the EN may
provide. Career planning involves looking at your skills,
knowledge, abilities, interests, education, and work experience and then matching them
with career opportunities in your target area. In my state of Virginia, a position that would
be relatively easy to find in one part of the state may be quite difficult to locate
in another part. So it’s important to have that career planning
that’s specific for your location. Once a vocational goal has been identified,
the EN can help you identify organizations recruiting for such positions, prepare for
interviews, develop a resume that effectively markets your skills and strengths, and assess
any offers that you get. There’s an individual we worked with who was
a registered nurse who came to us with physical limitations. She assigned her ticket to us for assistance
in finding a job that was a good match for her. As I say, she’d been a registered nurse but
had to stop due to the heavy lifting requirements. She had been out of work long enough for her
RN license to expire. We paid for her license to be renewed and
helped her with resume development, cover letters, and interview strategies that appropriately
addressed the gaps in her work history. She was hired in a unit that did not require
lifting and is enjoying a job now where she earns about $50,000 a year. Ongoing supports, the third bullet, involve
the assistance an EN can provide as you settle into your position. We can help you request accommodations and
develop effective working relationships with co-workers and supervisors. This support can be provided confidentially,
discreetly, offsite, and with no employer involvement. Some EN’s are available to advocate directly
or in person with your employer at your request if that is necessary. So we spoke a little bit about benefits counseling. I really feel it’s a critical piece in a smooth
transition to work and self-sufficiency. The ability to understand the effects that
working will have on your cash and health benefits and being able to proactively budget
and plan for those changes has been associated with almost doubling the chance of a successful
transition to employment. It only makes sense that if you understand
all this, you can make an informed decision and focus on work. If your EN does not have benefits and work
incentive practitioners on staff, ask them how they can ensure that you will get this
information. One way they might do this is by referring
you to a WIPA. So state VR agencies. The state vocational rehabilitation agency
is committed to providing services to individuals with the most significant disabilities to
help them transition to work and achieve their optimum level of self-sufficiency. These agencies are symbolized on the Choose
Work site by the orange triangle shown on the slide. The services they provide can be quite intensive. They are, however, usually time-limited. They do not typically provide ongoing supports. An increasing number of VR agencies are developing
working agreements with other EN’s that service your geographic area so that once you have
completed services and you’re working comfortably in your new job, they can close your case
and unassign your ticket. And at that point, another EN of your choosing
can assign it and provide ongoing supports. This is generally referred to as a partnership
plus agreement. And I have story about that one, too. We were working with a client who had through
the support of the VR agency been working with another state agency in a part-time,
30-hour per week job for two years but was earning less than SGA — that’s substantial
gainful activity, which this year is $1,170 a month. He had depression and he just felt stuck. He assigned his ticket to us and we worked
with him on understanding his benefits and work incentives so he would have the confidence
to try working over SGA in another job. We identified that the work environment was
really crucial. We were able to find a position with a small
healthcare administration company that offered a supportive environment. The client now works in a customer service
position as the liaison between a health insurance company and the healthcare professional. And he’s thrived in that position. After a year with them, he’s already been
given a promotion and a raise, and he’s currently earning about $40,000 a year. Talking to your EN or VR about Section 503. We talked about how federal contractors are
looking for qualified applicants with disabilities. Be sure to ask your EN or VR agency about
how they identify federal contractors who might just have the right job for you. You had asked the question and Greg had talked
a little bit about disclosure. So I’d just like to add a little bit on that. Telling an employer about your disability
or disclosure, there’s been a lot of discussion about that over the years prior to the Section
503 revision, about whether if to disclose to an employer. And that’s something I do encourage you to
talk with your VR or EN about the pros and cons. It’s worth repeating that Greg’s comments
that the voluntary self-identification form federal contractors are required to provide
for your completion prior to a job offer does not go to the hiring manager. By law it’s supposed to go to a separate manager,
usually in human resources or compliance, who gathers statistics to ensure that the
company is attracting a reasonable percentage of applicants with disabilities. That person then charts the percentage of
such applicants who are hired. So for you, when you’re speaking with a manager
in an interview, that individual may be very interested in finding qualified applicants
with disabilities, but he or she won’t have access to your voluntary disclosure form. So if you have an obvious physical disability,
this may not be an issue. But if you have a hidden disability, you may
want to talk with your EN or VR agency about effective ways to disclose your disability
in the interview that would actually incentivize the hiring manager to offer you that position. So the hiring manager is trying to be proactive
in reaching out to offer opportunities to individuals with disabilities to meet the
7% utilization rate. So in some instances it could really work
to your advantage. So I just encourage you to think about that. There was also some discussion about where
to find federal contractors. There’s a website, www.SAM.gov, S-A-M and
SAM.gov. And that lists all the federal contractors. And you can actually search in your area by
zip code. Just drill right down to zip code level, and
it lists all of the federal contracts in your area or in an area where you’re searching. You can search by name, you can search by
zip code, you can search by industry groups. There’s all kinds of ways to search. So that’s one way that you can see who the
federal contractors are in your area. Then you might look at their postings to see
if they have openings that would be a good match for you. Another way to tell is more happenstance as
you apply to companies if they offer the voluntary self-disclosure form, that’s something that
federal contractors alone can do because it’s asking you to — for the opportunity to disclose
a disability prior to a job offer. So they do have specific authorization to
do that. And I believe they are the only employers
who can do that. So when you get a form, you know that’s a
federal contractor. So you might think about, “Well, would it
be in my interest to disclose my disability later in the interview process?” So selecting the right EN. The key to finding an EN that’s right for
you is to talk with several, ask questions, visit their website, note how long it takes
them to respond to messages or emails. Your VR agency may also have knowledge of
EN’s that serve your geographic area. There are two documents that are referenced
on this slide, and they’re both terrific as far as giving you some help in this process. The choosing right employment network, which
is the first link on the slide, lists seven different questions that you could ask an
EN that would be really good to get a conversation going. And you can just gauge for yourself how you
feel working with that individual and go from there. So it needs to be a win-win for both of you,
and you need to feel comfortable with the person you’re assigning your ticket to. The find help tool. The Choose Work website has the latest information
on EN’s and VR agencies that serve your area. You’ll recognize the blue triangle for EN’s
and orange triangle or VR agencies. It also lists all the WIPA’s that serve your
area. You can search in a variety of ways. They show some here — zip code, services,
disability type, language, provider type. You can also search by organization name. If you happen to remember part of a name,
you can put that in. Don’t be surprised to find 100 or more options. Some are local in your area and some are regional
or national. They all can provide excellent services, it’s
just a question of the match that works best for you. Any of them should be able to answer your
questions and help you explore your options. It’s the start of an effective working relationship
and an exciting new chapter in your life. So please take your time and be comfortable
with your choice. Remember, though, these services are voluntary
to both you and the EN. So if you’re not satisfied, you can change
providers at any time. The important thing is just to get started
when the time is right for you. So that brings me to the end of my part, Nancy,
and I’ll turn it back to you for questions if there are any.>>Great, Sherman. Thank you so much. And yes, we do have multiple questions that
have come in. And I also do just want to mention to our
audience that in your notes pad, which is underneath where you type your questions and
answers, the websites that Sherman was talking about are there for you to be able to access
as well. So Sherman, one of the questions that came
in that I think is really important is, “If I get a job, does protection with 503 mean
that I do not have to report my wages?”>>No, I do not understand that that protects
you from reporting your wages. 503 is designed to help employers reach out
to beneficiaries with disabilities who are qualified for that position. But an employee would still need to meet all
the other regulations about reporting. And as I think I mentioned, whether it’s SSI
or SSDI, the ticket program or 503 doesn’t really replace any of those. They all work together. So you would need to report your earnings
and follow those other guidelines in those programs.>>Great, thank you. And another question that we have is somebody
doesn’t quite understand the difference between an EN and vocational rehabilitation. So can you help them understand a little bit
more about who they might want to go to and what those two entities do?>>Sure. Each state has an agency, it’s under the RSA
— the Rehab Services Administration — and each state has a state agency whose goal is
to work with people with disabilities. And they are mandated to work with those with
the most significant limitations. So they start there. And if they are restricted in who they’re
able to serve as far as how many people they can serve, they kind of work in reverse order. So they’re working always with the people
who have the most significant limitations. Their services are very intensive and wide
ranging. They are able to help people go to work in
all sorts of jobs that would match their interests and skills. And some of them can be part-time jobs. So where employment networks are organizations
that are in existence to help people go to work also, but they’re not part of the state
VR system. So they are independent, they work together
with VR. And best case scenario they work very closely
with each other so that you, the beneficiary, are getting the best services and have the
best choice of who you work with. It gets a little complicated because some
VR agencies choose to work as EN’s, but I don’t want to get too far into the weeds there. But there are two very distinct groups, and
there are some differences. And we as an employment network, not a VR,
we’re encouraged and under our agreement with Social Security, we need to make it clear
that our services are intended to help people transition off of cash benefits and to help
them if that is their goal to do that. And if that’s really not their goal, then
we work with VR to refer them to VR. Because VR works with everybody. So does that help, Nancy, or do you think
there are things I could get into further?>>Yeah, that’s great. I think one of the things that would be great
to mention is do people go to the same place if they want to get in touch with an EN or
VR, or are there different places that they go for those different services?>>Well, the Choose Work website shows all
of them. So I know I’ve looked up — I’m in Richmond,
so I looked up Richmond and it has the VR agency there with the symbol. And it has all of the EN’s who are not VR
agencies listed and it has the WIPA’s. So I think for any zip code or area that you
put in, it would tell you right away where the VR office is or how to contact your VR
office. Typically with VR offices there’s a main state
office, and then there’s multiple, many local field offices around the state so it’s convenient
for citizens in that state to access those services and walk into an office or come into
an office in person and talk with somebody, not have to travel a long way to do that.>>Great, thank you. And then we do have a question from someone
that wants to know if you could explain what a WIPA service is.>>Yes. The WIPA services are the work incentive — I
know it’s so long, the acronym — work incentive planning and assistance is funded by Social
Security. They’re highly, highly trained by Social Security. And their purpose is to answer the questions
that beneficiaries have about their benefits, and what happens when they go to work, what
happens to the health insurance, what happens to cash benefits so they can plan and know
when that will happen and they can budget. And they’re very knowledgeable. They’re one source. And then another source is the individuals
who are trained not through Social Security but through other ways to get information
so that they can work with beneficiaries and answer these questions. So and a lot of employment networks have those
individuals on their staff so that they can give you the information you need to make
informed decisions. We just really strongly believe that beneficiaries
need to have information so they can make informed decisions and go out and work, and
concentrate on work and focus on doing the very best they can, and not worry about what’s
going to happen, when’s the other shoe going to fall, and what unknown consequences it’s
going to have. They can kind of see all that up front and
prepare for it if it’s going to happen or make informed decisions but how much they
would like to participate in work. But the WIPA’s great.>>So we have a very motivated person who
said, “How do I find a federal contractor who is actively seeking to hire out employees
with disabilities?”>>I know the — I guess federal contractors,
they’re all identified on the SAM.gov website. So that would be my suggestion. And I’ve done that with people as we look
in their communities or we look in their state, we identify which employers. And it’s amazing the number there are that
you think, “They’re a federal contractor? I didn’t know that.” So I would suggest looking there, and then
you could reach out to them and see what opportunities they have.>>Great. It’s amazing what we can find when we Google
things, isn’t it?>>Yes [Laughs]. But the SAM.gov is the one site where all
federal contractors kind of store all of their information. And it’s searchable and it’s a wonderful resource. And it’s free and accessible to everybody.>>Great. Great that it’s free, too. Thank you. I’m going to ask one more question before
we move on to a few more slides, and then we still do have several questions that are
coming in, in Q&A as well. And I guess, Sherman, this could either be
for you or it could be for Greg, who was speaking earlier about self-identification. So it’s up to you two or certainly you can
both talk on the topic. But we have somebody who is asking, “What
is the benefit of self-identification in getting a job with a federal contractor?”>>I can start there, Greg, and maybe you
can jump in if I –>>Sure.>>– if I don’t have enough. But I would say the primary one is the responsibility
and the initiatives that employers who — federal contractors — who have more than 50 people,
they have to be able to show where they’re reaching out to individuals with disabilities
and offering them an opportunity to come to work, and hiring the percentage that is the
target, which is 7%. So they have a 7% utilization within their
company. And for employers over 100 people, that means
let’s say you have some engineering experience or some drafting experience and you apply
to a federal contractor who has those positions, they may have drafters, they have may have
admin assistance, they may have drivers who drive around and deliver things — they are
required to have 7% in each of those work groups, in each of those categories. So the federal contractors are really anxious
to find ways to reach out and to bring people in. There’s, like, four things — recruit, hire,
and –>>Promote and retain.>>– promote and retain. Thank you, Greg. So they’re trying to do all this. And so that’s what I see it as a huge opportunity. I had someone at Social Security tell me that
this should give I think he mentioned over 600,000 — back when this came out — 600,000
job opportunities for people with disabilities. That suddenly it’s, like, federal contractors
are looking for qualified people with disables. And so if you disclose, then they have the
option to consider you as a person if you have the qualifications they’re looking for,
you’re exactly the person they’re looking for. But disclosing is a personal thing, and you
may or may not want to do that, especially if it’s a hidden disability. Does that help?>>Yeah. And I would just kind of take it back also
that as well, Sherman, what you said. Federal contractors really are working to
identify and recruit individuals with disabilities. Through my conversations with them, they just
— every time we talk about Section 503, you know, they’re, “Okay, can you help us find,
you know, individuals with disabilities who are qualified for these positions?” So, you know, part of the incentive to self-identifying
as well is kind of what Sherman is saying, federal contractors are really looking for
these individuals with disabilities to fill these jobs. And they’re qualified to do so. So I would just leave it at that point, that
they’re really looking for individuals with disabilities to fill positions.>>Wonderful, Greg. Thank you very much. All right. So we still have some questions, but I’m going
to go ahead with a few more slides and give you guys a break for a minute. And then we’ll pick back up with some questions
and answers. And thank you all very much. The answers are wonderful. And thank you all to those asking these really
great questions as well. All right. So we are going to talk a little bit — excuse
me — about resources. One of the resources that we would like to
talk about first is American Job Centers. So many of you out there may remember these
as your one-stop centers. And American Job Centers provide a single
point of access to key federal programs and critical local resources as well to help people
find jobs, and to identify training programs, to gain skills in growing industries, and
just to learn about what those growing industries are. And then CareerOneStop is a partner of the
American Job Center. So what job centers are able to do is help
us — or help you in finding a job. So they can assist with job searching, they
can assist with networking. They can also assist you with things like
writing a resume or developing your interviewing skills. And they can also help you explore careers. So there are — if you go online and I’ll
read the website to you, it’s http://www.careeronestop.org. Something else that they have that might be
interesting for our listeners is they have self-assessments to learn more about what
your skills are and where your interests lie, where your career options might be focusing,
and also, you can learn more about career planning. And then you can also get information from
your OneStop, your American Job Center regarding education and training. So you can explore training options and you
can find local schools and programs in your area. And you can also learn about certification,
you can learn about apprenticeship, and even some licensed occupations. So CareerOneStop is a great resource for individuals. Another resource that we wanted to include
for you in today’s webinar is the Workforce Recruitment Program, WRP. The Workforce Recruitment Program is a recruitment
and referral program that connects federal employers nationwide with highly motivated
college students, as well as recent college graduates with disabilities who are eager
to prove their abilities in the workplace through either summer employments or permanent
jobs. And those can be either part-time jobs or
they can be full-time jobs. And to continue with the Workforce Recruitment
Program, to be eligible, candidates must be current, full-time undergraduate or graduate
students with a disability or have graduated within one year of their release of the WRP
database, which comes out every December. So, again, the Workforce Recruitment Program
is a really good resource for individuals. And for more information you can visit www.dol.gov/odep
— that’s o-d-e-p — /wrp. And you can search the WRP database and find
a good job that will help you fit your needs. And then one of the last resources that I
will talk about and I believe it was Greg or it could have been Sherman who talked about
it a little earlier as well, and that is JAN, the Job Accommodation Network. And we’ve had individuals from JAN come and
speak on some of our past webinars. Some of you have used services from the Job
Accommodation Network. JAN provides free, expert, confidential guidance
on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. So for more information, you can visit JAN
at http://askjan.org. All right. So having said that, I will now go back to
some questions. And this is, again, either for Greg or Sherman
or you can certainly tag team with one another. I think that worked out really well. And one of the questions that one of our participants
has is, ‘Are there federal contracting jobs available nationwide?”>>Yes, yes. I would say there are. There are certainly concentrations of federal
contractors. We’re very fortunate in Virginia to be very
close to the nation’s capital and, of course, the naval bases down in the southern part
of the state. But they are spread across the whole country. And again, you can search for that by state
and drill down to local zip codes to see how many there are in your community.>>And just, again, to kind of piggyback off
of that, a lot of times we will have federal contractors whose headquarters may be in Virginia
or Colorado or California, but they’ll have satellite offices where they run operations
in other states. And so, you know, through that you’re able
to actually reach out and get connected with federal contractors as well.>>Great. Thank you, Greg. Thank you both. So Sherman, I think this question might go
back to you. We had several questions that have come in
regarding the SAM website. People have not heard about that. Can you talk a little bit more about the SAM
website and why people would go to that website?>>I’m trying to recall what the SAM stands
for. But it’s Systems Award Management, that’s
what is. So it is the federal government site that
they require all federal contractors to be registered in that site in order to do business
with the federal government. So by definition, every one of them is in
there. And it’s quite searchable, I think. And it’s just one place where, really, they
all have to be. So there’s a lot of information there. It’s not terribly well known, but I think
it’s a great resource. It’s S-A-M like the name — SAM.gov.>>And I think you’re right, it’s not well
known. And we’ll have to ask them after this webinar
if they get more hits [Laughs]. So great, thank you for that. All right. So let’s go back to one of the questions that
came in a bit earlier is — and Greg, I know you talked about this but I think people still
get a little bit nervous. The question is if, “If I self-identify will
the employer discriminate against me?”>>No. If you self-identify, the employer based on
the policy and regulations cannot discriminate against you based on you self-identifying. Now, if you are self-identifying at the pre-employment
phase and maybe your qualifications, you know, don’t match what they’re looking for, then
that’s not discriminating based on you self-identifying. And as Sherman was talking about earlier,
really, when you self-identify, that information is not supposed to be handled by the hiring
manager. And so that information really should kind
of be siloed or kind of carved out so that the individual, the hiring manager making
that decision is not influenced, you know, by that.>>Okay, that makes sense.>>Nancy, this is Marlene. Could I take you back on that and add just
a little more information?>>Sure. Absolutely, Marlene.>>I just wanted to add everything that Greg
said was wonderful, it’s fantastic. But a lot of folks here and there may get
discriminated against. And when that happens, sometimes they just
don’t know where to turn. And I just want to [inaudible] those folks
out there, there’s been beneficiaries out there to know there’s always support in the
system. No matter what they need, there’s supports
available. There is what’s called a protection and advocacy
component in every state in the country. And I think Greg or Sherman did talk about
the protection and advocacy component a little earlier, but I wanted to remind you again
there is that protection in every state in our country. If you need to find the protection and advocacy
components for your particular state, you can visit www.choosework.net and use the find
help tool. And by using that tool, you can search for
that component and get their contact information, their website, or you could be taken to their
website. And likewise, if you need any other services,
like an employment network, or a WIPA, or whatever the case may be — a workforce office
— you can find all of the information that you need right there. But I think that that find help tool at choosework.net
is a wonderful, wonderful resource. It’s all in one place and it gets you everything
that you need to get to where you’re going.>>Thank you, Marlene. And that just generated another question,
which is, “Can I find a benefit planner by going to that site?”>>Okay. Did you want me to answer that, Nancy?>>Sure, I think we’ve got three experts on
the phone. So I think you all can, you know, simply speak
as you feel comfortable and wanting to talk about that topic.>>Okay. And well, you can find a benefit planner at
that particular site, at choosework.net by using the find help tool. And when we talk about benefit planners, I
think Sherman was talking about WIPA’s, W-I-P-A. That’s the Work Incentive Planning and Assistance
Program. And can find them on the find help tool. You can actually search for the WIPA project
that serves your particular area. And they serve a particular geographical area,
all of them do. But with that being said, I think both Greg
and Sherman talked about benefit planners who actually don’t work for WIPA projects. There’s benefit planners out there that have
gotten great training and they work for employment networks. There’s benefit planners, some of them are
associated with a VR agency, with a vocational rehabilitation agency. So there’s benefit planners that you could
find in a variety of areas, and you can find that information on that tool. By using that tool, if you go into it and
say you click on it and you’re inputting maybe your particular city or your zip code and
you want to see what benefit planners are there available for you, could you bring that
up. It will also show you the employment networks
and all of the services that they provide. And you could find a good match that way. Telephone the employment network, telephone
VR, telephone the benefit planner and try to find the best match for you. So there’s a lot of options out there. You know, sometimes we hear about the benefit
planners and there being capacity issues, that they’re so overwhelmed with beneficiaries
who are choosing to work that they can’t provide them all with the intensive services that
some of them need. So there are other options there. And employment networks are fantastic options,
and VR agencies are also fantastic options.>>That’s a good point. I know in Virginia we have a certification
that we work with VR to get the benefits planning and to supplement the WIPA’s. And there’s about 100 of those trained individuals
around the state to supplement the work that the WIPA’s are doing. And there’s just unfortunately not — as you
say, there’s just not enough of them. So in our state that’s been addressed through
this other training option to get qualified people to provide this information to people
so they can make informed decisions. It’s made a huge difference.>>And as Sherman said, Virginia is way ahead
of the pack. They are very progressive in what they’re
doing. They’re providing very, very good service. Because when folks go back to work, they don’t
want any surprises. They want to know exactly what they’re doing,
and they want to choose the option which is best for them. They want to know how work’s affecting their
cash benefits; they want to know how work’s affecting their Medicare or their Medicaid;
they want to know how work affects other benefits they receive. Maybe they get food stamps, or housing assistance,
or VA benefits. And to make an informed decision about work,
they need a total picture of that. And the benefit planners can do that. And I can’t say enough good about the benefit
planners out there because they provide a vital, much needed service for beneficiaries
who are actually choosing to work.>>Marlene. And this question, I guess, for, again, any
of you would be, “Can benefit planners charge you a fee?”>>That’s a great question. Under the Ticket Program, employment networks
are not allowed to charge you for any of these related services. So we and other EN’s provide these services
to help you, and there’s no additional charge for them.>>Great.>>To piggyback on that, the only thing I
could add is I don’t know of anywhere where any costs are passed along to beneficiaries. I know in some states the VR programs absorb
some of the costs to provide benefit planning services to vendors just so that these services
can be provided to the beneficiaries. Because I know VR and EN’s, they feel that
these services are so critical to someone returning to work.>>Great, thank you. So staying with the EN’s, again, this question
open for everyone, we have a question that says, “Can I change my EN?”>>Yes, you can. [Inaudible] feel free to jump in at any time. But the Ticket to Work Program is a voluntary
program. And at any point as a beneficiary if you want
to, you know, change your status from one EN to another, you can do that without going
in depth and giving an explanation. And so, you know, again, Sherman feel free
if you want to add some more to that. But –>>Right.>>– answer is yes, as a beneficiary you
have that choice. And, you know –>>Right. We’ve worked with a lot of beneficiaries who
it’s our goal to meet their needs so they don’t feel they need to go elsewhere. And I know that’s every EN’s goal. In some situations it may become apparent
that a beneficiary is really not going to be able to work enough at this time to get
off of cash benefits and they need support, then it would be a question of us working
to refer them to VR, which would involve us unassigning the ticket. And then VR can assign it and continue to
provide the services. So it’s all about doing what’s best for that
beneficiary. And there is all that flexibility, that you
can unassign it completely or reassign it at your discretion.>>Okay. Nancy, on this one I think we’ll tag team
it. So on this one with changing EN’s and we’re
talking about assigning a ticket and unassigning a ticket, I just wanted to throw out there
that it’s important for beneficiaries if they have a ticket assigned and they decide they
want to work with another employment network and they have their ticket unassigned, they
have a certain period of time in which to have that ticket reassigned to another employment
network. And I think it’s 90 days — don’t quote me
on that, but I think it’s 90 days. But let’s say, for example though, someone
procrastinated, they kind of kept putting it off. They had their ticket unassigned and they
didn’t have it reassigned to another employment network. After that time period is up, they lose their
medical continuing disability review protection. So that means that Social Security can actually
do the medical review, the regularly scheduled medical review. So if you’re out there, you’re a beneficiary
out there and you’re thinking about changing EN’s, make sure that you do your homework. Find another EN you’d like to work with if
you want to maintain that medical continuing disability review protection. Because that’s real important.>>Thanks, Marlene. And Marlene, I’m going to ask you another
question. We’ve got some 503 questions, but while we’re
talking about benefits, we’ve had a few people — even though we haven’t necessarily talked
about it today — wanting to know more about expedited reinstatement. Could you touch on that a little bit, please?>>I can. And I did see a couple of questions in the
chat box about that. And I was trying to type in links, so I couldn’t
answer all of the questions. But that’s really, really an important question. Expedited reinstatement is a work incentive
or a support that Social Security has where if you work so much that you worked your way
off benefits and your cash benefits stop, they terminated, someone asked in the chat
box, “Well, what if my condition worsens? What happens to me?” An expedited reinstatement is like a safety
net. It’s there for you to catch you. So if you cannot continue working, expedited
reinstatement allows you to reapply for benefits within five years of the date you’re terminated. And Social Security immediately starts paying
you cash benefits for up to six months while they’re making a disability determination. They’re looking to see whether or not you
still have the disability that you had when you were awarded benefits. And I can’t say enough about it. And that support, expedited reinstatement,
some people call it easy back on because it catches you when you fall. And it’s available to beneficiaries, whether
they’re receiving or whether they had received Social Security disability benefits, or whether
they’ve received supplemental security income benefits, or whether they’ve received both
benefits. So if they were terminated, they would go
to their Social Security office. You cannot apply for that online, and I say
yet because Social Security does make a lot of changes in their online computer system. But you cannot apply for it yet online. So you would need to go to the Social Security
office. You may want to make an appointment beforehand.>>Great. Thanks, Marlene. I did see several questions come in about
that. So I appreciate that. Going back to 503, we do have a question,
“Does Section 503 have an age limit?”>>No, there is no age limit with Section
503. If you’re an individual with a disability
and you qualify as that, then you’re able to apply for any job. There is no age limit or age discrimination
for that matter. And, again, if for some reason you feel as
though you have been discriminated against, as Marlene stated earlier, you can reach out
to protection and advocacy.>>Thanks, Greg. And another person asks, “Does 503 mean I
have to work full time or can I start working part time?”>>Well, you can start working part time. And really, you can start working part time
and work your way up to full time. And that really depends on the actual job
that the federal contractor has listed and what they’re hiring for. One of the things that, you know, just through
conversations that we found is that with Section 503 and self-identification is that sometimes
federal contractors have individuals that they would like to move into full time. They may already be employed with them part
time. And because, you know, those individuals have
yet to self-identify but they’re just saying, “No, I don’t necessarily want to go full time
right now. I want to stay part time.” You know, that’s been one of the barriers
to individuals self-identifying with federal contractors, you know, working with those
individuals to move them into full-time employment. And that’s just through conversations I’ve
had with federal contractors, one of the things that we’ve seen.>>That’s great news and that’s great to hear. Thank you, Greg. All right. I am going to move us along. Thank you all for all of your questions. I don’t think we’re going to be able to get
to them all. I do want to make sure that we finish up the
last bit of our slides. So let me go into a few more of those. Wonderful questions today from everyone. Greg and Sherman, your knowledge that you
were able to pass on to everyone today was great, and we all appreciate that so much. As many of you heard today, if you want more
information, please call the Ticket to Work help line at 1(888)968-7842 or TTY 1(866)833-2967. Or you can also visit www.socialsecurity.gov/work. We also encourage you to connect with us. You can like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/choosework. And you can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/chooseworkssa. We also have a YouTube channel so you can
watch Ticket to Work videos on YouTube at http://www.YouTube.com/choosework. And we would also like it if you follow us
on LinkedIn. And you can do that by going to https://www.LinkedIn.com/company/ticket-to-work. We certainly want you to join us next month for
our next webinar. And that will be on Wednesday, May 24th, 2017
from 3:00 o’clock to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. You can register online for that webinar at
www.choosework.net/wise. Or you can also call 1(866)968-7842 or TTY
(866)833-2968. And I think
that we were able to get in a great amount of questions today. Again, thank you all for your time. And please remember that we want to know what
you think about us. So please tell us what you think. Please remember to take our webinar survey. And a link will pop up right after the webinar. Or you can also visit www.choosework.net/surveys/wise. Again, we want to thank our presenters, Sherman
Gifford and Gregory Bell. We appreciate your time. And thank you very much. Have a wonderful rest of your good afternoon.

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