March 20, 2009

THE FOOD-COURT STORY

Build trust with consumers to dispel myths about benefits, prepare them for potential surprises

—by Matthew K. Weiland and Paul M. Kubek

Steve Shober, BS, LSW, came into benefits planning almost by accident—in the throes of a crisis during his first job out of college. Back then, he was working as a vocational specialist and job coach, assisting a woman who took a chance and reentered the workforce. Her job was going great. Her employer was happy. Her recovery was advancing. Then, one day, a letter arrived from Social Security, and she quit her job, never to return.

Steve Shober shares the story that got him started in the field of benefits planning whenever possible, because it demonstrates a few basic principles that every service provider can use:

  • Build trust with people you serve and their family members (e.g., take time to listen to their stories and learn about their concerns, hopes, fears, and dreams)
  • People are more likely to believe information they get from people they trust
  • Know basic facts about benefits programs and how they work
  • Communicate facts about benefits programs regularly, prepare people for potential surprises

THE CONVERSATION

This is one installment in a collection of stories from conversations with Steve Shober, BS, LSW, about the importance of benefits planning. Steve is a former vocational specialist, job coach, and benefits counselor who works as a consultant and trainer at the Ohio Supported Employment Coordinating Center of Excellence (SE CCOE), an initiative of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University.


1.) She Took A Chance (1m, 57s)
Many people who experience severe symptoms of mental illness come to rely upon cash benefits (non-earned-income) from the U.S. Social Security Administration, medical benefits from Medicaid or Medicare, and other benefits like subsidies for housing/rent. So, getting a regular job feels like taking a big chance—a leap of faith that income from a regular paycheck will not make them ineligible for much-needed benefits.
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2.) She Was Caught Off-Guard (2m, 0s)
Benefits planning is about helping people avoid surprises. A simple heads-up that letters from benefits providers like Social Security are a natural part of going back to work can help avoid or manage overwhelming feelings of anxiety or fear that might derail recovery.
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3.) She Lost Trust (1m, 38s)
The surprise of a letter from Social Security ruptured this consumer's trust of service providers, so they never had the chance to explain it. The letter had stated that her cash benefit (non-earned income) from SSI was being reduced because she now had earned-income from a job. However, the money she was making exceeded the reduction in SSI. Financially, she would have been better off to keep working.
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4.) If I Work, I Can't Pay My Bills (2m, 42s)
There is much bad news and many myths that circulate about the relationship between employment (earned income) and benefits programs like SSI, SSDI, and Medicaid. The bad news and misinformation causes very real fears. Facts and information alone will not change this. There needs to be a trusting relationship before people will listen to and utilize facts to make informed decisions about their financial situations.
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5.) Sign Off (0m, 44s)
A production of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University—a partnership of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case and the Department of Psychiatry at the Case School of Medicine.
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BENEFITS PLANNING SERIES

Get a list of all Benefits Planning eConsults (click here).


Matthew K. Weiland, MA, is senior writer and producer and Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University—a partnership of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case and the Department of Psychiatry at the Case School of Medicine.