Funding for Work
Medicaid or Private Insurance
If a device is medically necessary it is sometimes easier to obtain AT such as seating, positioning, mobility and speech prostheses (alternative augmentative communication) devices through private insurance or Medicaid. See "Funding Medically Necessary AT".
Reasonable Accommodations Provided by Employer
Employers have the responsibility to purchase AT as a "reasonable accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Employers and individuals with disabilities can learn more about these laws and their rights and responsibilities through the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), which is a free service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the US Department of Labor. JAN provides free technical assistance and consultations to public and private employers as well as resources for people with disabilities.
- Visit Employment Rights of Individuals with Disabilities in Massachusetts
- Get The Employer's Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from JAN
- Learn about JAN's resources for people with disabilities.
If a person's disability resulted from a work-related illness or injury, Worker's Compensation may cover the cost of AT devices and services. To learn more about Worker's Compensation, visit the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents and download the Injured Worker's Guide.
Social Security Work Incentive Programs
These programs allow persons with disabilities to set aside income to pay for AT or services while retaining Social Security eligibility. Read more.
*Portions of this section have been adapted from the Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative funding fact sheet "Social Security" available at www.dati.org.
Recipients of Social Security benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be eligible for various work incentive programs such as Impairment-Related Work Expense (IRWE) and Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS). These programs allow persons with disabilities to set aside income to pay for AT or services while retaining Social Security eligibility. These programs can be very powerful for people with disabilities who need expensive equipment (such as an accessible van) enabling them to set earnings aside while, in some circumstances, becoming eligible for SSI and Medicaid in the process.
Social Security Benefits
There are three basic types of Social Security benefits:
- Retirement Benefits (usually called Social Security)
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
These benefits provide limited monthly income from the federal government. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not pay for assistive technology directly, but entry into the system is an important first step in being able to access AT through other related programs. For example, in Massachusetts, anyone receiving SSI benefits is automatically eligible for Medicaid, and Medicaid pays for many AT devices and services. More about SSI and SSDI is available at www.mass.gov/mrc.
Work Incentive Programs
Anyone receiving SSI or SSDI can purchase AT through one of the SSA's work incentive programs if the equipment is in some way related to a vocational goal. If interested in these programs, it is important to contact SSA and to follow the rules closely. Failure to do so can lead to termination of SSI or SSDI benefits. Self-employed persons are not excluded from eligibility. Work Incentives' Earning Guidelines are available at www.mass.gov/mrc.
There are several types of work incentive programs for persons with disabilities. A brief description of each program follows.
- The Impairment-Related Work Expense (IRWE) is money set aside from income to pay for a broad range of AT and services, including such things as ramps and vehicles. The IRWE is available to both SSI and SSDI beneficiaries. Learn more about IRWE
- The Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS) is also an income "set-aside" program that pays for AT. It is available only to SSI recipients. PASS plans must be in writing and approved by the SSA. The plan should describe a specific work goal that the beneficiary is capable of performing and a specific time frame for reaching that goal. The PASS time frame cannot exceed 48 months. Learn more about PASS
- The Blind Work Expenses (BWE) program functions much like the IRWE, but it is even broader in its coverage (e.g., BWEs need not be impairment related, so things such as childcare may be legitimate BWEs). However, the BWE program is only available to SSI recipients.
- Ticket to Work is the newest of the Social Security work incentive programs. Its purpose is to increase beneficiaries' choices in obtaining rehabilitation and vocational services and to remove barriers forcing people with disabilities to choose between health care coverage and work. The "tickets" have been distributed to all SSI and SSDI beneficiaries in Massachusetts age 18 and over. They can be used to obtain vocational rehabilitation and other employment support services (including AT) from an approved provider of the beneficiary's choice. This is a voluntary program. Learn more about Ticket to Work
Access to Social Security Work Incentives:
Project Impact and BenePLAN
Project Impact and BenePLAN offer benefits counseling, planning and outreach services to people with disabilities on Social Security. Project IMPACT is housed at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; BENEPlan is run by Resource Partnership, which is a program of UMass Medical School. Both programs are funded by the federal Social Security Administration through the Work Incentive Assistance Program (WIPA). The programs can counsel individuals with disabilities about work incentive programs, and about how to get employment without losing needed public benefits (such as health insurance).
Massachusetts Assistive Technology Loan Program
The MATLP gives people with disabilities and their families access to low-interest cash loans to buy the assistive technology devices they need. See Loan Information.