Providing Quality Disability Benefits Planning Services Since 2000

Providing Quality Disability Benefits Planning Services Since 2000
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Woman in foreground and background teaching about benefits counseling

Author: Brian Forsythe, CWIC, Work Without Limits
In 2000 and as part of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act, the U.S. Social Security Administration awarded a number of benefits planning grants to community providers throughout the country. These grants, now referred to as Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) grants, aimed to assist recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to better understand the myriad of work rules and reporting requirements regarding these public benefit programs. Two grants were awarded in Massachusetts:

  • The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission named their program, Project IMPACT. This program is still in existence today and services Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth, Bristol, Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket counties. 
  • Resource Partnership, a private non-profit organization based in Natick, MA, named their program, BenePLAN. At the time of the grant, Kathy Petkauskos, current director of Work Without Limits (WWL), was the Executive Director of the Resource Partnership. In 2008 the BenePLAN grant and program transitioned over to UMass Medical School as part of the WWL Initiative, which aims to improve the employment rates for individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts.  This program services individuals living in Middlesex, Worcester, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Berkshire counties.

WWL BC Territory Map

As part of Work Without Limits brand management process, BenePLAN has been renamed Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling. This rebranding provides a seamless integration of benefits counseling services into the larger picture of inclusive employment that has been the hallmark of Work Without Limits since its inception in 2008.

Despite the name change, the WWL Benefits Counseling staff continue to provide comprehensive benefits counseling services in our territory. The mission of the benefits counseling program is to inform SSDI and SSI recipients about the effect of work income on all public benefits, not just their Social Security benefits. To date, WWL Benefits Counseling has provided services to thousands of Massachusetts residents.

Through the hard work and dedication of our highly skilled team of Community Work Incentives Coordinators (CWICs), WWL Benefits Counseling provides one-on-one counseling to individuals receiving SSDI and or SSI.

Winnie Siano headshot

Marjorie Longo headshotBrian Forsythe headshotBarbara Lee headshot

      Winnie Siano               Marjorie Longo            Brian Forsythe              Barbara Lee

Our CWIC team, consisting of myself, Brian Forsythe, as well as my colleagues Barbara Lee, Marjorie Longo and Winnie Siano, explains the effect of work income on not only SSDI and SSI, but also MassHealth, Medicare, SNAP, EAEDC, TAFDC and Public Housing. Understanding the effect of work income on public benefits makes the decision to return to work less challenging.

In addition to providing benefits counseling, the WWL Benefits Counseling team also provides a number of training programs geared toward state agency and community provider staff who work with individuals with disabilities who are working or looking to return to work. We additionally provide overview presentations to parents and caregivers looking to understand how work will affect their child’s public benefits. 

Work Without Limits also provides Benefits Counseling services to Social Security beneficiaries through the Work Without Limits Administrative Employment Network (WWL AEN).  Individuals enrolled in this program have assigned their Social Security Ticket to Work to the WWL AEN and have achieved or are seeking to achieve independence from SSI or SSDI payments.  Benefits Counseling services through the WWL AEN are designed to help individuals build a bridge to financial security free from public benefits.

Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling logo

Learn more about WWL Benefits Counseling 

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If you would like to learn more about WWL AEN

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 Brian Forsythe headshot 

Brian Forsythe earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Lowell. In 2001, Brian was certified as a Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC) by Cornell University and was later recertified by Virginia Commonwealth University. He worked as a Benefits Specialist for seven years prior to joining UMASS Medical School.

Prior to his current role, Mr. Forsythe’s background includes nearly 30 years of experience in all aspects of vocational rehabilitation and special education. Brian has served as a special needs teacher, supervisor, supported-work counselor, vocational evaluator, job placement coordinator and program marketing specialist. He also worked for 11 years as a Regional Coordinator for Resource Partnership, an organization responsible for the placement of qualified job candidates with disabilities into competitive employment. He conducted job seeking skills workshops, and provided ongoing support to Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission job club members. Under the direction of an Employer Advisory Committee, he outreached and developed job postings from area employers. Additionally, Mr. Forsythe provided a wide range of in-house training programs for local employers, including but not limited to “Tilting at Windmills” which is a nationally recognized disability awareness training program. He consulted with local employers on issues of hiring, promoting, and retaining employees with disabilities and the interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.