Benefits Counseling Services (BCS)
Who We Are
Benefit Counseling Services can help individuals who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and are working or want to work. Our staff of Community Work Incentives Coordinators, or CWICs, also known as "Benefits Counselors," have been trained in the special rules that apply when someone receiving these benefits returns to work. Social Security calls these rules "work incentives."
In Maine, Benefits Counseling Services are funded by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, and the Maine Department of Labor Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, with support from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services Office of Aging and Disability Services and the Maine Department of Labor Bureau of Employment Services.
What are Work Incentives?
Special rules apply when a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, DWB, CDB) beneficiary or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient returns to work. Sometimes these rules can be complicated; there are many different types of work incentives that may reduce the amount of income SSA "counts" as earnings, that may protect your eligibility for MaineCare or Medicare, and that may make you eligible for funding to advance your career.
Work incentives are different depending on whether you receive SSI or Social Security Disability. If you received both benefits, both sets of rules apply.
How can Community Work Incentive Coordinators help me?
CWICs provide the following services:
Work Incentives Planning
Tell us your questions about benefits and employment and we will develop a Benefits Summary & Analysis. This is a written explanation of your current benefits and a plan describing how to use work incentives. It can be developed with either a projected or actual employment goal.
We can also assist you in identifying services that you might need along the way and connect you with resources for job placement, job coaching and training, or other types of assistance for which you may be eligible. This includes, but is not limited to, referrals to state and federally-funded employment services through CareerCenters, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Employment Networks.
Work Incentives Assistance
Your CWIC can help answer questions about your benefits as you look for work and even after you return to work. We will follow up with you to help you understand how your work incentives and available resources can be used. When you begin working or your income from work increases, we are available to assist you in assessing your health care coverage options and will talk with you about how work incentives can be used over time.
With your permission, we will also work with other service providers to make sure you get the help you need to achieve employment success. In the event that you need protection and advocacy services, we can help you connect with these services as well.
You might meet a CWIC at a workshop or a meeting in your community. In these settings, CWICs answer questions about general work-related Social Security rules and incentives and can refer people to related services for which they may be eligible. These sessions are offered statewide as requested. Also available directly from the Social Security Administration are Work Inventives Seminar (WISE) webinars offered monthly.
To register for an upcoming webinar which you can view from your own computer, click here. This link will also give you the option of watching a previously recorded WISE event.
How do I / Where can I get CWIC services?
Maine Medical Center’s Benefits Counseling Services services are provided to individuals across the state. Every effort is made to provide in-person, community-based services. Sometimes, due to high demand for service and the large geographic area, a combination of mail, telephone, and videoconferencing services may be used. To access services, click here or on the “request services” link on the right side of your screen.
CWIC coverage map of Maine
BCS Staff List
Why is this offered by Maine Medical Center?
Maine Medical Center (MMC) has a thirty-year history of providing employment services to people with disabilities. When the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 authorized the creation of Benefits Planning, Assistance and Outreach (BPAO) programs across the country, MMC Department of Vocational Services (DVS) recognized the importance of providing “benefits counseling” services to people with disabilities receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, and MaineCare. This information is critical to help people make informed decisions about their benefits when considering a return to work.
MMC DVS applied for and was awarded the BPAO cooperative agreement from the Social Security Administration to provide this service to the State of Maine from 2001 – 2006. From 2006-2012 continued services were possible through the awarding of SSA's Work Incentives Planning and Assistance cooperative agreement to MMC. Although SSA WIPA funding ended in July 2012, continued services are made possible through utilization of other federal funding and strong state support.
Click here to go to Vocational Services Home Page.