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Starting a job search and what to expect

One Stop Career Centers

Okay, so you’ve got the resume going, the pants are pressed, and you’re ready to start working. Now, all you need is a little bit of help choosing the right job. Your local One-Stop Career Center is a great place to start! They can help you assess your skills and experience to help you decide on the best career, help you search for a job, and can also offer you education and training. To find your local One-Stop Career Center, visit or just pick up the phone and dial 1-877-US2-JOBS (1-877-872-5627).

Department of Rehabilitation (DOR)

The Department of Rehabilitation serves people with many different types of disabilities. Their main goal is to get you working. They’ll work closely with you to help you achieve your goals! DOR may be able to help you pay for college, with job training programs, transportation (bus pass, etc.), and sometimes may even purchase equipment (computer, software) to help you reach your career goal. They are a valuable resource and will provide you with a counselor who works directly with you to help you become more independent. How’s that for service?!

Planning for Potential Changes in Your Benefits

It’s important to know that the cash and health benefits you currently receive may be affected by having a job. Public benefit programs including Social Security (provides a monthly cash check) and Medi-Cal (provides health insurance to see the doctor) are used by many people with disabilities (You can read more about Medi-Cal in the “Health Care” section in this toolkit). However, these benefit programs sometimes change once you get a job. A lot of people think that the second they start working they are going to lose all of their check and health insurance coverage – but this isn’t always true! It’s important to understand your options. Because these issues can get complicated and confusing, there are resources available to help you figure things out. Read on to find out a little bit about the different “work incentive” programs and who to talk to about these programs.

Social Security / SSI

If you are getting cash benefits from Social Security you need to plan for possible changes to your benefits if you get a job. But, first and foremost, you need to know what benefits you are currently receiving. You can get this information from Social Security by asking for a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY). Once you have your BPQY it’s a good idea to visit a benefits planner. These individuals can help you figure out how working and earning money may change your benefits. (To find a benefits planner near you, please check out the resources below.)

If you’re getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cash benefits, the amount of money you receive from SSI may change if you start earning money from work. Basically, your SSI cash benefit amount is reduced $1 for every $2 you earn from work (however, the first $85 you earn isn’t counted at all). Students are especially lucky – they are allowed to “exempt” (meaning “not count”) up to $6,240 (in 2008) before their SSI cash benefit will be reduced. This is called the “Student Earned Income Exclusion” and it’s a great way for you to work and earn more money than you are getting on SSI!

See, this can be complicated, so it‘s a good idea to meet with a benefits planner – they’re good at explaining the rules in an easy-to-understand way!


Medi-Cal is a health insurance program for people who are low income and/or disabled. However, some people with disabilities can work, earn a good amount of money, and still keep their Medi-Cal. There are two main ways to do this:

1. For people who are on SSI:

People who are on SSI automatically get Medi-Cal. If you stop getting cash benefits from SSI because you are making too much money, you can still keep your Medi-Cal through a program called “1619b” (kind of a weird name for a health insurance program, huh?). The 1619b program allows people who used to be on SSI cash benefits to work, earn up to $34,000/year (in 2008) and still keep their Medi-Cal benefits for FREE! Sometimes, you can even earn above $34,000 and still get your Medi-Cal through 1619b.

2. For people who are not on SSI (or for people who used to be on SSI but are making over $34,000/year):

The Medi-Cal 250% Working Disabled Program allows individuals with disabilities to work, earn up to $53,000/year (that’s a nice chunk of change) and still keep their Medi-Cal. People in this program pay an affordable monthly premium between $20-$250.

Additional Resources

To request a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) from Social Security, call 1-800- 772-1213, or visit your local Social Security office (to find your local office go to:

For information on all the different disability benefit programs in California, check out the Disability Benefits 101 website ( This website even has benefits planning calculators which make it easy to figure out how working will affect your benefits.

To find a Benefits Planner in your area – go to:

Personal Assistance

Having a disability may mean that you need assistance at work, so choosing the right person to help you is very important. This care can be provided by a family member, a friend, a volunteer or by someone who gets paid to help you. This person works directly for you and you are in charge of choosing him or her. Paying for personal assistance can become expensive, but don’t worry. You have a couple of options available to help fund your care. Below, we’ll outline a couple of them.

Agencies such as the Regional Centers and programs such as In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) may be able to assist you with paying for and finding the right type of personal assistance to fit your needs. IHSS provides personal assistance services to help you live safely in your home. And, thanks to a law passed in 2003, you can use some of your IHSS hours to meet your personal care-related needs at work.

There are two types of Workplace Personal Assistance Services (Workplace PAS). The first type is personal care-related assistance – such as help in the restroom or at your lunch breaks. A second type of assistance, called jobrelated assistance, includes tasks such as help with reading, interpreting, lifting or reaching work materials, and travel assistance between work sites. These job-related services are not available through the IHSS program. However, your employer may have a responsibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws to provide reasonable accommodations for you to perform job-related tasks. Employers are not generally required, however, to provide personal care-related assistance.

A personal assistant can be very important for achieving your goals and can help you lead a more independent life, so be sure to use all the resources available to you to help you make a good choice.

Additional resources:

Your local departments of health services and social services are responsible for determining eligibility and need for Medi-Cal and IHSS. Please check out their website at:

The IHSS Public Authorities are responsible for keeping local lists of screened and trained personal assistance service providers, making individual referrals, and providing information and training. This is a safe and effective way of finding a personal assistant. Please check out their website at:

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides free information on workplace accommodations, including PAS and assistive technology, selfemployment options, and disability-related legislation. Please visit their website at:


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