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WISE Webinar 2016-05: Mental Illness, Myths and Fact: The Advantages of Working

February 9, 2020

>>As I mentioned, we do have a pretty packed
agenda today. We will be covering the welcome and introductions right now and then we have a couple of folks from Aspire Indiana who will talk to us about mental illness, myths and
facts, the advantages of working, the Ticket to Work Program, reasonable accommodations
and whether or not work is possible for you. We do have a replacement speaker today. Her
name is Stephanie Gauge and she’s here for Kendra Berry. We will also be talking with
a woman named Laurie who is here to offer her story of using the Ticket to Work program.
We’re very pleased to welcome her as well. At this point I would like to turn it over
to Tina [inaudible] to talk to us a little bit about mental illness, myths and facts.
Tina works at Aspire Indiana and she’s held a variety of important employment positions
that include case manager, employment consultant, program manager, and she’s now the director
of employment services. And she’s actually working at one of the first mental health
center supported employment programs in Indiana. So we’re very happy to have her today and
Tina take it away.>>Alright, well thank you so much Jayme.
I am so excited to be a part of yet another WISE event. This is one of my most favorite
WISE events to do so it’s exciting to get to be here and be with everyone. We’re going
to start today by going through some of the myths and facts about mental illness. So,
let’s start out with the first question. Mental health problems don’t affect me. Is this true
or false? Well it’s false. Mental health problems are common. Chances are you or someone close
to you have experienced some form of mental illness. In 2014 it was estimated that one
of five American adults experienced mental health issues. But youth are also affected
by mental illness. One out of 10 young adults experience a period of major depression. And
believe it or not, mental health is even more common than some of the most common illnesses
that we’re familiar with, such as various types of heart diseases. It was estimated
that one out of 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder or major depression. Alright, so let’s try this again. Remember it’s a true
or false statement. People with mental health needs even those who are managing their mental
illness well may not tolerate the work of holding a job down, true or false? Oh this
is so, so not true. It is definitely false. People with mental illness diagnosis can be
just as productive as any other employee. From my own experiences of working with employers
and working with the SHRM organization, which is the society for human resource management,
employers have found that individuals with mental illness are on par or sometimes even
better employees than individuals who have no disability at all. For example, employers
have reported that individuals who have mental illness actually have better attendance, they
are more punctual, their motivation is good. They have good work ethic and oftentimes spend
longer on the job. So that means they stay at their jobs longer. Alright, let’s go on
just a little bit further with this conversation. The next part is really when people with mental
illness health diagnosis receive effective treatment it can result in a much lower cost
for medical costs. There are multiple health studies that show that actually the health
cost goes down as individuals go to work. We also know that productivity increases.
Sometimes people only need a little bit of counseling or even a slight change in medication.
They can really control those symptoms from their illness and be very productive within
their work. The next one is very simple, lower absenteeism. If you feel better, you’re probably
going to go to work. The last one is the decrease in disability costs. I had a, one particular
individual, a gentleman told me that he didn’t like all the rules of being a beneficiary.
So by going to work and getting off of benefits he no longer had to follow all those rules.
So going to work for him was really a stress reducer and really allowed him to be more
self-sufficient. Alright, so let’s go onto another question. Again, this is true or false.
There is little hope for people with mental health diagnosis. Once a friend or family
member develops mental health problems he or she will never recover. Wow, is this false
too. Studies show that people with mental health diagnosis get better and may recover.
In fact, employment is a significant part of the recovery model. And while each person
defines his or her recovery a little bit different, the general consensus is that recovery refers
to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn and participate fully in
their communities. These days there are many treatments and services and community supports
out there. And even before, this is far more than ever before. So individuals have an opportunity
to really access and really become fully engaged in their recovery supports. With our new understanding
of the brain and its chemistry, we are learning more every single day. Alright, so that concludes
our true and false statements. So where can you get more information? One of the places
where I like to go to get more information is at This website provides
you a one stop access to information about mental health and mental health programs from
all over the United States from the U.S. government. You can see the link next to it that says aims to educate and guide the general public health
and emergency preparedness professionals, policymakers, government and business leaders,
school systems and local communities. And the one thing that I noticed on here that
wasn’t included is that really its designed to help everybody, beneficiaries, anyone who
is interested about mental health services. So let’s bring it back to Jayme for the introduction
into the next section. Jayme take it away.>>Thank you much Tina and thank you for that
very informative true and false session. And we also wanted to thank for
serving as a resource for those questions. And we hope that they made you think a little
bit about mental health and some of the myths. So next up we have Stephanie Gauge and Stephanie
began working in benefits counseling as a benefits information network liaison in 2007
while she was at Easter Seals Crossroads. At Easter Seals Crossroads she also worked
as a career assessment counselor and a benefits information network liaison. So she recently
joined the WIPA project and the [inaudible] and Stephanie will explain a little bit of
what all of that means. And she now works with Tina at Aspire Indiana. So Stephanie
let’s hear some of the advantages of working.>>Okay, thank you Jayme. Good afternoon.
I am Stephanie Gauge. I am a community work incentive coordinator with the WIPA project
for northern and central Indiana. We provide benefits counseling to people free of charge.
We are a grant program through social security. So you may be asking yourself why is work
important? What are the advantages of work? As you can see on slide 19, there are several
reasons people choose to work. It may be just to earn more income. I mean who doesn’t want
a little extra money coming in. Gain independence, but oftentimes, especially for those with
a mental health diagnosis work benefits such as meeting new people and learning new skills
leads to increased self-esteem, which is a great advantage for a person overall. And
I think it’s so important, that last point is to be a part of the community. We all know
that it’s important to feel connected and that that has great effects on you as an overall
person. Work can also help you with your health. People who work are often physically healthier
than people who do not work with fewer aches and pains. Sometimes just staying busy can
shift your attention or focus from what’s wrong to work. It can just be a great distractor.
Work also provides structure, which for many with a mental health diagnosis is crucial.
It also helps people stay active and involved and it helps exercise not only their bodies
but their minds, creativity and skills. Working can also provide people with a way to contribute
to the community. So often we identify ourselves with our job, our career, what we do. And
the loss of that can make us feel like less of whole person and can affect us not only
physically and financially but also mentally and emotionally. Working and contributing
to a community can provide a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of being part of a larger group
with a purpose, really to have some meaning to your life. Working can also give us a sense
of future. Setting goals such as earning a promotion or developing new skills can motivate
people forward. Working is a way to invest in ourselves, in our future. It gives us hope
and drive to accomplish more and be better. I worked with a lady who suffered from severe
depression for years. Many years she didn’t even get out of bed or leave her house. She
had a lot, two children and just couldn’t find a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
She worked with vocational rehabilitation and me as a career assessment counselor at
that point to learn a new trade. She actually learned phlebotomy and was able to get trained
and licensed in that and got a job. This gave her hope. It also gave her a way to work herself
off benefits that she was receiving, which I also provided benefits counseling to her
at that time to help her segue. And she found joy in life again, which I think is the biggest
benefit to working. So now that you understand how great work can be, how do I get there?
The Ticket to Work Program can provide support on your journey to work. There are two main
social security disability benefits programs that the Ticket to Work Program can be utilized
by. The first is what is called Title II, more commonly known as social security disability
insurance or SSDI. This benefit is for people who have worked enough to become insured through
paying into the FICA system. It can also be received by a parent’s work record, a child
with a disability that can receive those as an adult off of the parent’s record. A person
must work for a specific time though and be disabled according to social security’s guidelines
to receive this benefit. The second social security disability benefits program is supplemental
security income for SSI. This is very different from the SSDI program. Although the acronyms
are very close so it seems like they should be similar, they are very different. The SSI
program is a needs based federal program. It’s for individuals with disabilities who
haven’t worked or haven’t worked enough to receive SSDI. Although these are two different
programs sometimes people receive both SSDI and SSI at the same time. You may say, “Well
how could this happen?” Well, sometimes the SSDI benefit is below the federal minimum
level of SSI. This year that level is $733. When this happens the SSI benefit will be
given to make up the difference between that SSDI benefit and that maximum federal level.
So, how do I start this journey? Only you can decide if work is the right choice for
you or sometimes more importantly when work is the right choice for you. A great first
step is to look into the Ticket to Work Program. The Ticket to Work Program is a free and voluntary
social security program to provide you with employment support. It can offer career development
for people age 18 through 54 to receive social security disability benefits so either that
SSDI or SSI. So Ticket to Work can help you take the next step by gathering information
and resources. That is the key to planning your journey towards employment. Ticket to
Work and Work Incentives can help make your journey a smooth one. Let’s face it, if you
don’t work in this field and even sometimes when you do work in this field, it can be
very confusing and overwhelming thinking about all the benefits that are being received and
working and the impact that will have on it. But there’s help available that you can, so
I suggest looking into this program not only for help in looking for a job but in understanding
the benefits and the work incentives that are involved. Slide 30 with the Ticket to
Work helpline number you can call the Ticket to Work helpline a 1-866-968-7842 or for individuals
that have hearing disabilities, you can contact 1-866-833-2967. Or you can also find out more
by visiting Okay, now let’s look into my personal favorite, Work
Incentives. Yes, social security actually has some great incentives that can help you
work or try to work. Work Incentives are special rules that allow you to receive training for
new skills, improve the skills you already have, pursue your education, try different
jobs, start a career and to gain confidence. There are many, many different work incentives
but this slide shows, slide 33 shows the most common work incentives. The first one is earned
income exclusion. And there are different work incentives that can help you earn more
money and social security can exclude some of your earnings when determining if you’re
at the SGA level or when adjusting your SSI check. Now there are different ones for SSI
and SSDI. So it’s always important to verify which benefit you’re actually receiving before
you start looking into these work incentives. The second thing listed is that protection
from medical continuing disability reviews. Anyone receiving social security disability
benefits have a continued disability review. The time frame in which you or the frequency
in which you have it varies on your disability. If you are utilizing your ticket you are protected
from a review while you are making timely progress towards your milestone. That is one
of the greatest work incentives to you know feel like you can try and you don’t have to
worry about that continued disability review while you’re trying. Trial work period or
PWP is the first timeline for social security disability insurance recipient. This one is
actually just for SSDI. This allows you to give your full effort to your, towards your
employment goal and no matter how much you make during that timeframe you still remain
eligible for your benefits payment. However, if your earnings are above a certain level,
this year that level is $810, however in prior years it was less. You still get your SSDI
check. They’ll just say you used one of those nine trial work periods. Now some people use
those all in a row. Other people may use one one month and then not use one again for six
more months. Social security looks at a rolling 60 month period when determining when you’ve
used those nine trial work periods. I would suggest always checking with social security
to see where you’re at in that timeline though. Sometimes people have used their trial work
period, all of them or some of them and aren’t aware of that fact. So please make sure that
you check that before thinking that you have all nine of those trial work periods available.
Down at the bottom row there is a continuation of Medicare coverage. This again is for SSDI
recipients because Medicare is only available to those who are receiving SSDI. This is a
work incentive that can help you continue to have Medicare coverage for at least 93
more months after you complete your trial work period. So, while you are trying to work
and if you want to try full time work you still have that Medicare coverage for at least
93 more months after trial work period, which is a great incentive. That gives you time
to figure out healthcare wise getting that set up with work if that’s available through
your work. Now I wanted to note that if you are receiving Medicare coverage and you’re
only looking at part time work you’re going to stay under that SGA level your Medicare
coverage would not be impacted by working. The next work incentive that’s listed there
is Section 1619b or continued Medicaid eligibility. And that is a federal work incentive to help
people keep their Medicaid coverage, even if your SSI stopped. Your eligible for your
Medicaid until your gross annual income reaches a certain amount. In the state of Indiana
that amount this year in 2016 is $36,772. So that is a great work incentive for individuals
on SSI who aren’t earning enough that they can purchase their own insurance but need
to keep that Medicaid and maybe their work doesn’t offer healthcare coverage. The last
one listed is expedited reinstatement of benefits. And this is for both SSI and SSDI recipients.
If you lose your benefits due to working and you need those reinstated you can request
to have your benefits reinstated within a 60 month period if you’re no longer able to
work or no longer able to work at the substantial gainful activity level due to the original
disability. So, I know that that’s, all of those sound wonderful and they are, but there
are so many other work incentives that are available. I urge you to you know look into
work incentives and into the Ticket to Work and the WIPA project because we can help you
through this to know which work incentives are specifically available to you still. Okay
and that concludes the portion on the Work Incentives.>>Thank you so much Stephanie. You did a
great job and I actually have a quick question for you. We have a participant who went on
SSI due to their mental health issues and now their physical health is working, is worsening,
I’m sorry. Can that person still use Ticket to Work? Okay they went on SSI. Absolutely.
If they’re you know on SSI they can, that was one of the two main categories that the
Ticket to Work benefit, beneficiaries can utilize, yes.>>Great, thank you Stephanie. Okay and I’m
sure that I will have some more questions towards the end. I want to remind folks that
the Q&A box is to the right of your webinar screen. You can also submit questions to [email protected]
if you’re not able to access that Q&A box. We do have a lot of folks out there today
so we may not get to all of them, but we’ll have some great resources for you at the end
if we are unable to answer your question. Next up on the agenda we’re actually going
to take a little detour and I am going to introduce Lori, who is going to be one of
our future success stories in the future. And Lori we’re so happy to have you here today.
And just going to kind of ask you a few questions to tell us a little bit about your story.
So Lori are you out there?>>Hi Lori.>>I’m here. Hi. Thanks for having me.>>Thank you so much Lori. I’m just going
to start at the beginning. What were the circumstances that led you to social security disability
benefits? Can you tell us a little bit about what you experienced?>>Absolutely and I just wanted to introduce
myself a little bit. My name is Lori Adler and I live in the Midwest in Indiana and actually
where some of the other speakers live as well. I’d be happy to talk about the circumstances
that led me to be on social security disability. My disability is actually a hidden disability
that I’ve had since a small child during grade school years. I start suffering from panic
attacks, major anxiety and also obsessive compulsive disorder at about age nine or 10.
And the first time I experienced a panic attack was at summer camp when I was away from home
for the first time. I realized something was very wrong and back then anxiety disorders
weren’t really a common topic at all. It’s actually something lifelong for me and chronic.
It’s brought me a lot of great challenges and obstacles to my life. I’ve been nearly
homebound at some times and hospitalized. I had to miss out on a lot of activities that
a lot of people you know without a mental illness would not even have to go through
because of all the strong fears. And it became very debilitating in my mid 20’s and I was
no longer around age 25 able to hold down my full time job in the corporate world. And
I’ve worked very hard to get to that point. But I start having massive complications including
non-stopping anxiety, depression, panic. I would throw up, inability to sleep, eat and
I wasn’t able to function in my daily life at all anymore, which was very disheartening
because I had always been you know a very high achiever. And I ended up having to leave
my job then and had to apply for social security disability and got SSDI because of having
worked enough and had enough points. So that’s kind of what led me to be a part of the program
I guess as far as my disability.>>Thanks so much Lori and thank you for being
so open with your story. I know that participants really appreciate your honesty. So at that
point you had stopped working and you’re on SSDI. So what made you want to try to work
again?>>I think for me it’s that I’ve always been
a very high achiever. There’s a lot of reasons but wanting to contribute to my family again,
being so young and going on disability obviously wasn’t something I had planned for or expected.
I was living on my own. I was alone and I felt like life kind of stopped and I wanted
to, once I start feeling a little better and I got on medication and some other professional
services I really just wanted to give back again. And I felt like I had to have some
type of skill or ability that I could put to use. I just wasn’t sure at the time you
know what that was yet.>>And how did you find the Ticket to Work
Program?>>Actually I had a friend and she had been
on an online forum, a work at home forum actually because I had been looking for work at home
because of my disability. I just felt it would be better you know if I could try to be at
home and find a job. And she saw something online, a forum and said that this company
helps people on SSI or SSDI return to work and they specialized in work at home. And
that was Employment Options and so it was scary but I took the first step and gave them
a call. And that was probably in 2010 and I applied with them, you know did the process
and we were a good fit for each. So I became a client in their work at home program. So
I found work at home you know online, so.>>Well that’s great. Thank you so much Lori
and I know that that first position actually ended for you and you were able to find another
job through them as well. Can you talk a little bit about that transition?>>Absolutely. Actually I started with a couple
of positions you know working from home and going back to work it was a big transition.
I had never worked out of my house at all. When I came on board with employment options
as a client the CEO was actually my job counselor, Paula and I told her I needed work at home
and she had found me a really good job that I really liked. It was with a pharmaceutical
company and they had opened a virtual division. So I worked there for several months. I actually
went back full time during my trial work period phase, which I wasn’t expecting but I was
able to do that and save up some money during that time. But unfortunately, the virtual
division it was a company that was based out of New York and they had a brick and mortar
company, but then they had a virtual as well. And that part closed down, so I had to go
back to the drawing board. But actually with that happening after a few months Paul, which
was the CEO of my employment network actually had an opening for marketing and public relations
and she had asked if, how I felt about working for her directly. So now I actually work for
my employment network and help other people learn about the Ticket to Work Program like
I did.>>That’s sure great and Tina actually works
with the Ticket to Work Employment Network as well and I don’t think that we’ve really
defined what that is. Lori can you do that for us?>>Sure. An employment network is an agency
in the Ticket to Work Program and Employment Options happens to be one that helps multiple
states. They help 47. Some agencies just help beyond just one or two states, it just depends.
And each one are certified by social security and they can provide free different types
of career and employment services including help with you know job pools, resume skills,
interview process, help finding employers, filling out applications, accommodations.
Employment Options helped me with all that. I was concerned about my gaps in employment
because I had been out of work a while and Paula helped tweak my resume you know so that
wouldn’t be the focus. So, all of that was free and a huge help for me, especially with
having anxiety because kind of taking that first step on your own is pretty tough. But
having someone to help you know really helped me a lot.>>That’s really great. Thank you so much
Lori.>>Oh, you’re welcome. You’ve talked a little
bit about some of your concerns but can you elaborate a little bit on the concerns that
you had about going back to work. Were you at all worried about losing your benefits
and should any of those concerns come true?>>Well with having anxiety as my main disability
as I’m sure if anyone that’s on the call has anxiety, I worried about everything you could
think of. You know what if I went back to work would my disability checks stop right
away? Would I lose my medical insurance because you know I needed medication and going to
the doctors. I worried about every little thing I could think of or that would be possible.
I worried about that and I worried about you know the medical insurance and the prescriptions
and all the what ifs. You know how is this going to work? Just so many things going through
my head and actually a lot of the things I’ve read online the other people had posted like
the minute you stop you get your first paycheck your benefit stops. That is all not true.
The concerns I had were put to rest with being with an employment network and you can probably
ask anyone in employment options. I had, I had a lot of questions and a lot of concerns
and just knowing I could call them and I’m still a client even though I work for them.
You know I can talk to you about, you know I got this letter or that form, what does
that mean? So, I did have a lot going in. I was really, really scared especially with
like I said having anxiety. But you know having someone guiding me with the program made it,
made it a lot better.>>Thank you so much. Do you think that employment
has had an impact on your health at all?>>Oh I think so, absolutely. I think for
me and I think one of the speakers mentioned it when you have a mental illness at least
for me you’re kind of you know stuck in your head a lot. And I feel like it’s given me
so many ways to focus. I feel like you know I have a purpose and not that job is your
only purpose. But I don’t you know at this time have children, so having a job allows
me to contribute to my family. I feel like it’s giving me you know more independence
and helped my self-esteem such as you know speaking on a WISE webinar and things like
that. You know I think it’s pushed me to do things that you know I didn’t think I ever
would. It’s given me a sense of self-worth again and you know just being able to help
others I think that’s the biggest impact. And I think it’s given me a focus and helped
me grow.>>Well that’s so great and we’re thrilled
to have you here. And you’re doing a fantastic job so thank you. We actually have a question
for you from the audience. We have someone out there who wants to know if you have any
advice for employers who want to do a better job with promoting mental health in the workplace?>>I think you know utilizing the resources
that you mentioned the Mental Health Echo, the National Mental Health Institute, I think
having you know if it’s a big company perhaps having you know small like focus groups or
something where people could you know talk about you know their mental illness. Because
like you said in the beginning, there’s so many people that have it and for me at first
sharing about it was not easy. I was embarrassed and now I’m at the opposite end of that where
when people start sharing their story with me, you know I felt like sharing mine would
help others. So I think just you know having a place where people can talk about, whether
that’s support groups or an online group. That would kind of vary based on the company,
but I think things like that are helpful.>>Okay, thanks so much Lori. And do you have
any advice for talking about your disability just from a personal level? What kind of gave
you the push and the confidence to tell your employer?>>I think for me it was you know being with
the employment network. You know Paula has written a book and she guides us specifically
on how to do that. Unless I needed an accommodation I didn’t necessarily you know admit to them
that I had the anxiety at all times unless it was you know necessary. I tried to just
you know, I had a video interview for one of the jobs and I just tried to let my skills
and abilities kind of like you know sell myself for what I was able to do. So that’s kind
of how I did it. As far as working with Paula and then you know they know about my disability
but I do feel like them knowing that, I think they see that it does, I think people with
anxiety do, because we’re often overachievers we have a lot of focus. We get a lot more
done. Not a lot more done, but you know we have a good work ethic. So does that help
answer?>>It sure does and we have another question
from the audience and then we’re going to do a couple, just one more question and wrap
it up.>>Sure.>>You mentioned that your employment network
helped you with your resume gaps, you know fill those gaps in employment. First is that
something a lot of the employment networks do? And second did you end up getting asked
about them in any of your interviews?>>As far as the gaps in employment, what
was the first part? I’m sorry.>>Will a lot of the employment networks,
sure. Will a lot of the employment networks work to help address those issues with their
clients?>>Okay gotcha. I think absolutely. I mean
each network is different in the program. So the best thing I would do is usually if
you get a list or you start calling around and just ask what types of services they have.
Or when you look at their profile you can see what they offer. Most if they are an employment
network you know would help with a resume. Employment Options you know every agency does
it different. They actually assign you to your own job counselors, so that’s how they
helped me with a resume. I worked one on one with them. I had one typed up, but they kind
of helped me tweak it and you know get it to where it needed to be. And then the second
question again.>>Let me think, oh during your interviews
did you get asked about any of your employment gaps?>>I believe I did in the one for the pharmaceutical
position, but Paula had worked with me on how to address that and what to say. And we
had tweaked the resume to focus you know less on the years but more on like what I did.
So she had helped me. I was prepared you know how to answer that from what she went over
with me prior. We do interview practice with our clients and that helped me a lot because
I hadn’t been on an interview in a really long time, especially a virtual one. So, that
was part of the employment services they provided.>>Great. Thank you and I’m going to try to
wrap this up. But we did get a bunch of questions from people wondering if they can work from
home.>>If you want, I don’t know how you want
to address them. I can you know you’re welcome to email me. I don’t know if you want to give
that out or I can try to just briefly explain it as far as what Employment Options does.
Is that okay or did you just want–>>Sure. I’ll just answer first that yes,
your Ticket to Work you can absolutely work from home. So that’s a possibility out there
and Employment Options is just one choice that you can help you with that. And then
Lori why don’t you just tell us quickly what Employment Options does.>>Sure. You know as she said there are different
agencies that offer different you know types of work at home. We do specialize in work
at home and we also offer onsite employment in 47 states. So people can apply for either
or. Our typical work at home are either customer service or tech support based positions. And
then we have a variety of specialties. We partner with leading employers who have anything
from billing and coding, we have nursing from home, tech support, IT, and just from different
career levels and all of them are usually for the most part customer service or tech
support based and based on the person’s experience they can specialize in a specific area. You
know working at home just like any position inside the home, you know it is a great opportunity
but it’s not you know always for everyone. It just depends on you know some people need
the interaction or want to get out. But you do, they will look at your typing speed, that
you have a home office that’s quiet, you have a certain type of computer and a little, you
know you have to have some type of customer service experience. You know we’d be happy
to speak with you or if anyone you know wants to email me I’d be happy to talk about my
story or whatever I can do to help. And if we can’t help you we always have resources
that we give out related to work at home, just to be able to give something to you.>>Alright. Okay, thanks so much Lori and
the one last question before we jump back into our presentations and kind of a two-parter.
One is would you recommend–>>I muted it.>>Yeah you said something about Friday.>>So it sounds like we have some background
noise.>>Well maybe we were over there at one time
a long time ago.>>I’m sorry. We have to mute, we have some
background noise.>>Well what a pleasure.>>I’m sorry folks. Hang on just one second. [ Inaudible background discussion ] Okay it sounds like we’re okay. I’m sorry
about that. So Lori, a two-part question for you. The first is would you recommend the
Ticket to Work program to others and do you have any additional words of advice for people
out there who are considering going to work. Sure. I absolutely 1000% would recommend the
Ticket to Work program. For me I feel like it was a blessing trying to take that first
step on my own especially with having anxiety and a mental illness was very difficult. Having
an employment network I just felt like I had someone you know even though virtually they
helped me. I had that support and I had someone there to ask questions and I had a lot of
them. All the things I worried about they could explain you know and go over that. I
feel it is just a great program. You know it’s free. It’s volunteering. It just allows
you to get help in so many ways with you know being out of work for a while how to handle
you know returning to work for the first time, your resume. Just offers so many great work
incentives and I would absolutely recommend it and I was happy to share you know how it
helped me. And as far as any words of advice to anyone considering work I think my biggest
piece of advice that I would think or that I would say is that always remember when you
return to work just take it in baby steps. That’s what helped me because thinking about
it as a whole gets a little overwhelming. And kind of a quote I always think of is,
“Rome was not built in a day.” And that’s what I liked about the program. It allowed
me to gradually return to work and take things slowly and give it a try. And that’s one thing,
it allows you to try it and still keep your benefits on and that was such a relief to
me. And then the last thing I think would be the never say never. Try to talk to yourself
positively and I had told myself and my family that I would never get off disability benefits
and I would never work full time again. And after several years of being in the program
I think I’m in year five I have, I now work full time and I just worked off of benefits
recently. So, just never you know never say never and don’t limit yourself.>>Well thank you so much Lori and congratulations
on your success.>>Thank you Jayme. We are so thrilled that
you were able to join us today. And thank you again for being so open and honest about
your story. Our audience is saying thank you as well. So wonderful job and we hope to have
you on sometime in the future. So thank you.>>Thank you all for having me.>>Thank you. So, at this point we’re going
to go back to our regularly scheduled programming and Tina is going to talk to us about reasonable
accommodations.>>Alright well thank you. Well that’s definitely
a big act to follow. Lori congratulations. It’s amazing your journey and really enjoyed
hearing your story and your insights into the Ticket to Work Program. So the next session
we’re going to talk about reasonable accommodations and while some disabilities are quite visible
mental illness as Lori alluded to is often referred to as the hidden disability. And
there are many views on how accommodations should be handled and approached. And really
each person is unique. Their situation is unique and so they’re really isn’t a solid
template that says you have to do steps A, B and C. But what I can tell you from my own
personal experience with disclosing my own disability is that you need to know your disability
how it could or may impact your employment and create some type of plan. Now whether
that’s in a specific formal plan such as requesting an accommodation or maybe a written plan within
the mental health continuum there are written plans such as the wellness recovery action
plan or WRAP plan and that’s a formal plan that outlays what to do when the symptoms
of your mental illness start affecting your daily life. You may also utilize an employment
network. Lori did a very nice job of talking about her employment network was helpful in
addressing the situations that were specific to her anxiety. When things got in her head
as she kind of referred to it. So that’s a really formal process and where you did a
very nice job of defining that each employment network is a little bit different. And again
each network may be able to help you in different ways. So Lori received a lot of her information
through long distance communication. But other employment networks may physically be in your
general area. For example in Indiana, I believe there’s 108 employment networks. Don’t quote
me on that but something to that nature. The other point to this is that sometimes accommodations
are informal in process. For example you may just simply set up some type of situation
where you know the plan is when you start becoming anxious you have somebody to reach
out to. That may be a family member. It may be a friend, whoever that might be. So again
no matter what your circumstance is figure out a plan. So let’s go on to slide 35 and
talk a little bit more about what a reasonable accommodation is. So let’s start out the term,
in terms of employment reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job,
work environment or that enables and please in quotes, “qualified applicants or employees
with disabilities to participate in the application process.” It’s not just about the job. It’s
about the application process or performing essential functions of the job. So what the
federal law basically requires is that employers provide a reasonable accommodation and we’re
going to come back to that word reasonable here in just a minute, to qualified individuals
with disabilities unless it causes undue hardship. And that word’s kind of tricky. Undue hardship
what it basically implies is that the business will not incur significant financial hardships
in order to meet the accommodation. One of the core components of reasonable accommodation
is this discussion about find a reasonable, it’s not the best accommodation necessarily.
It could be but it doesn’t necessarily specify that you have to have the best. It just says
reasonable. So let’s go on and talk a little bit more about reasonable accommodation. If
you need a reasonable accommodation okay, first thing you need to do if you need a reasonable
accommodation to apply for a job or to perform a task you have to ask to speak with the affirmative
action compliance officer. That’s a really big huge job title. In the past a lot of those
compliance officers were within the HR departments. Nowadays they may be in a whole variety, they
may be in a totally separate unit. But if you do need a reasonable accommodation one
of the first things that you need to do is really get in touch with the affirmative action
compliance officers. So we have listed here some accommodations. This may be in the form
in a formal format so making a change to the application process. So for example I worked
with an individual who was visually impaired and he needed to have the application in electronic
format instead of handwriting. And so it was possible, they actually had that format available
at a online website so you didn’t have to fill out that actual paper document. Providing
documents in the alternative format. Again that example that I just gave could be an
example of an alternative format. And a lot of times access may be around utilizing braille
services. You could also use, utilize sign language interpreters or even specialized
equipment. For example for myself I use what is called a screen reader. And what it does
is actually read the text that is on my screen. And it actually cost my employer nothing because
it’s already embedded within my computer system. So again, a lot of accommodations don’t even
cost anything. They’re very simple. So let’s talk about what type of reasonable accommodations
are available for people with mental illness. There are many types of reasonable accommodations
available to people with mental illness. But we have listed out six different specific
ones that are the most common. One particular accommodation that’s around concentration.
For example, there’s a gentleman who works for an agency and once he was actually hired
and we looked at the workspace, he asked for a reasonable accommodation which was to have
a private workspace due to his difficulties concentrating. Actually what he got was his
own office. So, it was actually a really good accommodation for him. But it worked out quite
well. He’s been a really great asset to our team. We’re glad to have him with us. Another
example is around memory. Asking accommodations for memory and quite frankly most of us probably
already use one of the most common accommodations which is called a list. So having a job list
is just a very simple accommodation for individuals who may be having problems with memory. There
may be organizational accommodations for example that may be including a structured time frame
for a specific task or for specific steps. We have time management is also another accommodation.
Again putting timeframes on those task lists. Probably the most common ones I’ve used with
individuals who may be having problems staying on track and may have problems with that time
structure. Another accommodation is around requesting an accommodation for stress or
emotions. An example of that is I worked with someone where there would be times where he
could feel that kind of getting a little anxious. And if he was just allowed five minutes to
walk out of, away from that particular job station, get regrouped and then come back
he was able to keep that anxiety underneath or– the last piece is one that is always
really in question. The ADA has talked quite a bit about attendance and if it is considered
an essential job function. What the courts say is it is an essential job function, but
there have been some modifications. For example, one of the simplest adjustments to this attendance
is called a flexible work schedule. Lori eluded to the fact that she worked at home. So that’s
another type of accommodation that may not require to have attendance in a physical place,
but that she, her attendance is counted a little bit differently. So although we have
covered some accommodations we also wanted to give you some other tools, things that
you can utilize. Things that you can set up. For instance, let’s talk a little bit about
reducing distractions in the work area. So, I mentioned earlier that individuals who were
having problems with concentration by just simply reducing the distractions in his work
area he was able to stay focused. Another option is to utilize a white noise machine
or some type of soothing music. I worked with an individual that utilized headphones while
they worked. That helped reduce his stress and anxiety and also kept him focused. The
next option is to try a plan of uninterrupted work time. So trying to make sure that there
aren’t too many disruptions in the actual work task timeframe. So for instance, I work
in an office where there are a lot of people coming and going. So setting up specific timeframes
where the individual can be uninterrupted to work would be helpful. The next option
would be increasing in natural light and it’s amazing. In my office I oftentimes utilize
natural light. We know from studies that also helps with mood. So that’s an example of another
accommodation. The last one here is divide larger assignments into smaller tasks and
goals. Lori you had mentioned that sometimes the first step is the biggest step and to
do smaller bites is helpful. I think this really stands true for a lot of accommodations.
A lot of times when you’re brand new at a job they throw a lot of things at you all
at once. Sometimes breaking down those tasks or goals can help, help you feel less stressed.
So let’s go onto the next one. We actually have some actual tools that you can use. For
example, you can ask for written or verbal instructions. You can ask for a written checklist.
And for instance here at Aspire we have a housekeeping company and what we have basically
set up is checklists to help people with their anxiety in making sure that they, that they’re
able to know all the functions of the job. What has happened with that accommodation
is actually laid to every single employee who works in housekeeping at Aspire regardless
of disability. So sometimes those accommodations work out being good for everyone. Another
option is a wall calendar or creating a daily or weekly task list. You can also ask to record
meetings or trainings. These days a lot of training are tape recorded and so it’s not
so uncommon for somebody to do that. You can ask for a memory aid such as schedulers, organizers
or even apps. One of my favorite one is my iPad. I utilize that a lot. So, let’s go on
to the next item. We, you’ll see some more reasonable accommodations. Those accommodations
may include a flexible work environment, working from home, flexible schedules. You can ask
for a mentor or job coach. On the job site we talked about employment networks. You can
bring your trained supports or service animals. So these are all examples of reasonable accommodations.
Okay so now that you know some types of reasonable accommodations you may wonder how to ask for
them. One of my favorite sites is the JAN website at And there is a
note on the resource section that also includes that website. So JAN or the job accommodation
network recommends that you ask for a reasonable accommodations in writing, okay. So the reason
for that is in writing it helps you and your employer be very clear about what you need
to be successful in your job. So, some of the things on this website I find really helpful
and I often refer people to are the disclosure plan. There are scripts, I mean just a plethora
of tools for you all to utilize. The other thing that I want to point out is that your
employer may have an in-house form. So while it is true that you can request an accommodation
either verbally or in writing. Again, it’s always best to place it in writing. Alright
let’s go on and talk a little bit more about what you need to put into that request for
a reasonable accommodation. This is what Jan recommends and also what I personally and
professionally from my own experiences recommend. So first of all you need to state that you
are requesting a accommodation under the American with Disabilities Act. Identify the job task
that you’re having trouble with. If you need to lay that out specifically and then the
third thing is identify your idea accommodation okay. So give them some ideas, but also request
that the employer provide feedback on ideas as well. So this was kind of a mutual relationship
that we’re working with on this accommodation. For some examples of accommodations requesting
letters, I really want you to take a look at that JAN website
at /media/ accommrequestltr.html.
So go check out that website. I think you’ll find lots and lots of great information. So
the job accommodation network is free. It provides free expert confidential guidance
on workplace accommodations and disability issues. It helps people with disabilities
enhance their employability and it can also be utilized to show employers how to capitalize
on the value talents of people with disabilities adding them to the workforce. And you will
see on this slide again another reference to the JAN website. If you want to call them
you can call them at 1-800-526-7234 by voice or by TTY at 1-877-781-9403. So I’m going
to bring it back to Stephanie who’s going to provide just a brief little section on
work, is it possible for me?>>Hi Tina, it’s actually Jayme and Stephanie
I hate to interrupt but we’re going to ask you a couple of questions real quick before
we move on to Stephanie. We have a couple of folks out there wondering about some reasonable
accommodations. I also want to address really quickly. I know that a lot of you are looking
for Lori’s contact information and you can visit Employment Options online at
And that is the employment network that we were talking about. But I hope you all stay
here instead of clicking over to that website. So just a few more minutes. So Tina we have
somebody out there who wants to know if they can ask for an emotional support animal has
a workplace accommodation.>>Absolutely. Now I will tell you that talking
with your employer about this is very very important but it absolutely is a conversation
that you can bring up as a reasonable accommodation.>>Thank you. And if I fill out the form and
submit a letter I make my case and my accommodation seems reasonable what should I do if my employer
doesn’t respond or denies my request?>>That’s a fabulous question. And it happens
more than we want it to. There are a couple of different things that you can do. Each
state has a protection and advocacy organization that you are more than welcome to access.
In Indiana for example it’s called iPass. In a lot of the other states it’s very similar.
There are some EEO or the equal opportunity EEOC through the federal government that you
can also use as well. And I’m trying to think of some other sites, but those are my two
like go to people I usually talk to. But the one thing I want to encourage, if they deny
it don’t, don’t automatically shut that door. Going back and having additional conversation
may actually help get that accommodation approved. Maybe not in the exact format but you might
get closer to what you need.>>Thank you so much Tina. This is kind of
related to the [inaudible]. I’m going to go ahead and ask this question now since you
are an employment network representative. We have somebody out there asking if ENs can
legally ask about your physical and mental health history as part of your intake. How
does that work?>>Well part of the conversation about an
employment network is knowing what types of support need to be put in place. What kind
of supports you want to help put in place to ensure your success in a job. So I think
Lori you said pretty openly that it was a good thing that your employer knew what was
going on. While an employer can’t specifically say do you have XYZ disability I just encourage
you to if you’re having questions on whether you should disclose talk to people, talk this
out, talk around the plan. An employment network can’t, they can ask you those questions but
feel also comfortable with that, the information that you provide them. Does that make sense?>>It sure does, so just making sure that
you’re happy giving them the information about your disability and comfortable, so.>>Absolutely. As long as you’re okay with
it then the EN will handle it appropriately. Okay we are getting close to 4:30 so I am
going to hand it back over to Stephanie.>>Thank you Tina.>>Thank you.>>Thank you Tina you did a wonderful job.
I’m going to quickly kind of go through some of this stuff so that we can get to the resources
at the end. But I hope by now you guys know the answer to this question. Work is it possible
for me? Absolutely. Yes work is absolutely possible. Lots of people in recovery work
in a variety of fields and jobs. It amazes me the amount of people that you probably
interact with daily or encounter and you have no idea that they have a disability. It may
be a mental health diagnosis or another type of disability. But there are people in all
jobs that have disabilities and work. Job accommodations can be made available at most
jobs. And as we have seen and heard amazing examples from Tina there are so many job accommodations
that can make it easy for you to be successful at your job. It may be assistive technology
or it can be something as small as just an extra five minute break that can make a world
of difference in somebody’s work career and that path towards being successful in keeping
a job. Employment programs like the Ticket to Work Program have helped people find and
keep jobs. Well I think that we had an amazing example, talk today. Lori so bravely shared
her story and so eloquently about how she worked with an employment program and an employment
network to find a job and keep a job. And she is one of many many success stories. And
I know sometimes you’re on the other end of it. We see those success stories daily but
you guys don’t always have access to seeing those. And I want you to know that there are
success stories everyday and you could be one of those success stories.>>Okay. Again with the yes, work is possible
more employers than ever are willing to give people with mental health challenges a chance.
And I think even today we heard somebody ask how employers can make things easier and make
more accommodations and I think I don’t know if that was an employer but employers are
becoming more educated and getting more training for employees so that they can better understand
what mental health illness is and how they can make working easier for their employees.
You may be able to find the kind of job you want more easily than you think. I think that
we’ve laid out some things you know working with resources. You know right now you may
not know what that job is that you think you should be in. But there’s lots of ways to
get you from point A where you are right now to point B, where you want to be in a job
successfully working. Remember take advantage of the resources we’ve talked about today.
We’re here to help you succeed on your journey to work. We encounter people everyday at all
different levels, those that you know are just thinking of working to those who are
you know looking at working their way off benefits. They all need those resources in
order to succeed. So please utilize everything we’ve talked about and the resources that
we talk about in just a few minutes.>>Okay great thank you so much Stephanie
and Tina and Lori for your wonderful presentations today. As Stephanie mentioned we are going
to talk a little bit now about some additional resources. I am going to go back a couple
of slides and just say thank you to the Temple University collaborative, a community inclusion
of individuals with psychiatric disabilities. A lot of this information came from their
fantastic guide on working with mental illness. And you can access that online at
And again a big thank you to Temple University for some of this information. So moving ahead
we are going to talk about even more resources. Our first resource today is the National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline. If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress,
please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They have trained crisis workers
available 24 hours a day seven hours a week. If you do call your call is confidential and
toll free and it will go to the nearest crisis center in the lifeline national network. These
centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals and they are there to help
you if you need them or if you know someone who does need help from them. They can be
reached by calling 1-800-273-talk, t-a-l-k which transfers over as 1-800-273-8255. Here
is also a National Veterans Crisis line. The phone number is connect veterans in crisis
and their families and friends with qualified caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders
to a confidential toll free hotline on [inaudible]. If you are veteran and you need their services
or you are a family member and would like to call they can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
And when you call that number press one. You can also chat online with them at
or by texting 838255. And again all of these messages will be confidential. The Sansa Treatment
Referral Help Line provides general information on mental health and also can give you information
on local treatment services in your area. You can speak to someone on the phone, a live
person Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. And they can be
reached at 1-877-726-4727. There are also a couple of national organizations who provide
assistance towards mental illness and the first one we’ll talk about today is the National
Alliance on Mental Illness which is better known as NAMI. They’re dedicated to building
better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. They advocate
for access to service, treatment support and research and are committed to raising awareness
and building a surety of hope for all of those in need. You can find the national NAMI website
at And you can find a local chapter online at that website as well. The
next national organization is Mental Health America. Mental Health America is a community
based network that’s dedicated to helping all Americans with mentally healthier lives.
They have been around for a century and have more than 300 affiliates all across the country.
Some of the things that they do are advocate for changes in policy, educate the public
and deliver urgently needed programs and services. And they can be found online at
And again you can find your local chapter on that website as well. This actually a Ticket
to Work resource. We had Tina and Stephanie and Lori talk about several different types
of service providers. We have employment networks, CBR agencies with programs and we also have
TABS organizations which deal with some of the legal questions you may have. So if you’re
looking to find somebody like Tina or someone like Stephanie who can help answer your benefit
questions or someone like Lori who also works in the employment network you can log onto And when you go on there you can actually search by your
zip code the services that they offer, the types of disabilities that they serve, the
languages they speak or the type of provider. So, if you are ready to look for worker right
now and you’re not an employment network, you can select that from the menu. So we do
encourage you to go on there to find help. It’s a fantastic first step as you’re looking
for more information on the Ticket to Work program. We also have another next step for
you today. We had a lot of questions come in and it is 4:29. So unfortunately we’re
not going to be able to get to all of them. But we do have a Ticket to Work helpline.
And if your question wasn’t answered today or you think of questions in the future, we
encourage you to give that help line a call at 1-866-968-7842 for voice or 1-866-833-2967.
You can also visit our website at In addition we’re on lots of social media
platforms for Facebook. It’s We’re on YouTube.
You can see a lot more success stories like Lori’s and some that are very different from
Lori’s. So I would encourage you to go on there and take a look at some of our success
story videos. So the link to YouTube is work. And we’re also on LinkedIn and to find
us on LinkedIn go to And we are right at 4:30. I want to say a
huge thank you to Tina, Stephanie and Lori. You all gave a fantastic presentation today.
We have lots of things to note from participants in the audience. So we really hope that you
learned some valuable information today and that you’ll consider taking those next steps
of calling the call center and visiting the help tool and getting some additional information.
I do want to let everyone know that there will be a survey popping up on your screen
after the webinar. If for some reason it doesn’t, it’s also online at
[inaudible]. Thank all for attending and best of luck on your journey to work. Have a fantastic

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