The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 authorized the Social Security Administration to award 99 cooperative agreements to a variety of community organizations to serve as Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) projects.
There are now 103 WIPA projects across the U.S. and surrounding territories. Some Work Incentives Planning and Assistance projects were formerly known as Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach projects. The program was renamed in 2006 because of the increased focus on work incentives. WIPA organizations are charged with helping Social Security Disability benefits recipients with all aspects of work, including career development, job placement, and benefits planning. WIPA’s stated goal is to better enable disability benefits recipients to make informed choices about work.
Community Work Incentive Coordinators (CWICs) are WIPA personnel who help disability benefits recipients to plan their work lives, determine their eligibility for various federal and state work incentives programs, receive training appropriate to their disabilities and needs, get information relating to health benefits coverage from employers and/or the federal government, and get information regarding advocacy services.
Examples of services provided by CWICs for disability benefits recipients are the following:
- Answering questions such as how work-related bonuses are counted under the Social Security Disability programs
- Conducting individualized needs assessments
- Providing information regarding training and certification
- Keeping recipients abreast of rule changes regarding Social Security Disability benefits
- Explaining how benefits will be affected when a recipient goes to work
- Providing information showing how employment earnings change Social Security Disability benefits
- Providing information about helpful community services
- Answering questions relating to benefits, even after a Social Security Disability benefit recipient goes to work
- Making referrals to provide help with respect to barriers to employment, such as employer accommodations
Each state has its own local Work Incentives Planning and Assistance office, and each offers similar services to disability benefits recipients who wish to continue working or to return to work.