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Benefit Information Network Services (BINS): What it is. How it works. Why you need it.

Get the information you need to plan your career and understand how employment income affects your state and federal benefits.

Advocacy Links now provides Benefit Information Network Services (BINS) through Vocational Rehabilitation! This is the “Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why” of BINS! A special “Thanks!” to Michelle Jones, Advocacy Links’ Lead BINS Liaison, for sitting down with me and answering questions so we could share information on this valuable service!


ACRONYM DISCLAIMER

Beware, there are acronyms ahead. Here are their meanings and definitions to refer to if you have any questions.

BINS – Benefit Information Network Services

o Definition: A service that provides an individual snapshot into the ways that employment income can affect Social Security Benefits.

o Link to Info on the Program: https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/cclc/employment/benefits-information/benefits-information-network.htmlVR – Vocational Rehabilitation

VR – Vocational Rehabilitation

o Definition: VR helps eligible individuals with disabilities achieve their employment goals by helping them through the steps of finding, applying for, and maintaining employment.

o Link to Info on the Program: https://www.in.gov/fssa/ddrs/rehabilitation-employment/vocational-rehabilitation-employment/

SSI – Supplemental Security Income

o Definition: SSI is a financial benefits program that provides monthly payments to adults and children with a disability or blindness, and who have income and resources below specific financial limits.

o Link to information on this Benefit: https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/ssi/ SSDI – Social Security Disability Insurance (Also known as “Disability Benefits”)

o Definition: SSDI is a program that pays benefits to people and certain family members of people who have worked long enough – and recently enough – and paid Social Security taxes on their earnings.

o Link to information on this Benefit: https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/



OVERVIEW of BIN Services

The BINS program is a free service offered by Vocational Rehabilitation to help those who are using their employment services to determine how employment – and a new paycheck - would affect their SSI or SSDI benefit payments. BINS can help people understand how stability in employment could affect their income, what type of pay and hours would be optimal for their individual needs, and it can even highlight other Work Incentives or support programs that could be available to them that they are not currently using. BIN Services are free to those working with Vocational Rehabilitation and individuals may choose whether they wish to use BINS to answer these financial questions and concerns.



WHO is eligible for a Benefit Analysis through BINS?

To be eligible for BINS an individual needs to be between the ages of 18 and 64, actively working with Vocational Rehabilitation, and they need to have SSI or SSDI benefits due to a disability.



WHAT is the process of getting a Benefit Analysis through BINS and WHAT information will I get?

The process of getting a Benefit Analysis through BINS starts with your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. They will talk with you about the service and what you can expect, and they will allow you to decide if you’d like to participate in the BIN Service. This service can help you make a decision about employment or to help you understand how changes in your pay or hours might affect your other benefit programs.


Your VR Counselor can provide you with a list of organizations that provide BINS, or they can select a BINS provider for you – at your request - based on their experiences with the organizations and their individual BINS Liaisons. This is the moment to ask for Advocacy Links if you’d like to work with one of our BINS Liaisons! (See the “WHERE” below to find the counties in which Advocacy Links provides this service.)


Once a BINS provider has been chosen and a referral for that organization to work with you has been submitted, it may take the BINS provider 2-3 days to receive the referral from VR. If you’ve selected Advocacy Links, one of our Liaisons will contact you within 42-78 hours of receiving the referral.


When a BINS Liaison calls you, you can either set up another time to meet, or start the process of answering some basic questions about your finances, income, Medicaid, Medicare, Section 8 housing, SNAP, or other programs you may be using. You’ll also be asked about any specific needs or supports that you require to work. For example, if you need a lift van to provide transportation to work, if you have a vision impairment and a guide dog, if you need to purchase uniforms or have medical expenses, these are all employment needs and expenses that social security considers when determining your recalculated benefit reimbursement.


This initial call could take about an hour as you and your BINS Liaison identify the supports you are using, what possible barriers to employment you may be facing, and additional supports that could be useful. During this initial call, your BINS Liaison will also talk with you about their need to contact Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, etc. to confirm your benefits. You’ll be asked to sign a release so they may contact these organizations to collect this information. The benefit analysis can’t be completed without information directly from these organizations from which you are receiving benefits or insurance, and the more accurate this information is, the more accurate your Benefit Analysis and results will be.


The BINS Liaison will then start the process of contacting these organizations. As they get information returned, they will use your individual benefits information to develop what they call a “Strategic Plan”. The Strategic Plan will summarize all your current benefits and information and it will provide scenarios of what your benefits and employment income would be with carrying numbers of hours worked per week or different pay rates. It can even offer suggestions for support programs or work incentives for which you may be eligible.


When the plan is complete, you’ll meet again with the BINS liaison to discuss the plan. You will review the information, the results, different employment scenarios, and what it all means for your individual goals and finances. After working through any questions, you’ll be asked to sign your plan and it will be sent back to VR for them to review. At that point, the benefit analysis process is complete! It’s possible that when your Strategic Plan is sent to VR, it could also be sent on to the Ticket to Work Program. (More Information HERE on Ticket to Work.)


Getting information from the different government organizations or insurance companies can sometimes take the most time, and the process from start to finish can take about 4 – 6 weeks to complete.



WHERE is this service provided?

The BINS service is eligible for individuals across the state. If you want an Advocacy Links BINS Liaison, we serve 34 counties across northern Indiana including those listed below.

WHEN can I get a Benefit Analysis with BINS?

You can have BINS provide a benefit analysis if:

  • You are considering employment and want to know how it will affect your finances. (Don’t assume you will lose SSI or SSDI! Depending on your benefits and the rate of pay and hours you want to work, your benefits may not be affected at all!)

  • You are working with VR and want to adjust your hours.

  • You have recently gotten a raise and want to see how it is going to affect your SSI or SSDI.

  • You are starting a new job, or changing positions.

HOW do I get started?

You can never go wrong if you start by asking questions! Starting a conversation with your VR Counselor is the best place to start. If you’d like to contact Advocacy Links with additional questions, please feel free to contact us by phone at 888-537-5733 or through email at info@advocacy-links.com.



WHY use the BIN Service?

Social Security Benefits and their relationship with employment income can be complicated and difficult to understand. BINS helps remove the guesswork and allows you to review all of the information so you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Many people assume that employment will hurt their SSI or SSDI, but the goal of these programs is to be a support when you need it. If find sustainable and well-paying employment, it is possible you may be slowly weaned off of SSI or SSDI benefits. Gainful employment and financial independence are the goals. If you have the opportunity to work and wish to do so for financial stability, self-worth, or independence, that is a decision you should be allowed to make with all of the facts and information available to make your decision.


Many people are comforted by knowing how employment will affect their benefits.

I’ll quote Michelle here (our resident BINS Informant), and highlight her top 3 reasons WHY people should use BINS and have a benefit analysis done:


  • INDEPENDENCE Financial independence and sustainable income can be part of finding the RIGHT employment for your life! Knowing how changes in pay, hours, or your job can affect your benefits helps YOU make choices for YOUR life.

  • FULFILLMENT It is important to be able to build a life and career where you feel valued and where you have an opportunity to add value. Working does this for many people in the right circumstances! BINS helps give you information so you can discover if you have the freedom to work without it causing financial hardships.

  • ACCOMPLISHMENT Employment is often tied to a greater sense of accomplishment. Throughout our days at work, we’re frequently given opportunities to solve problems and or overcome challenging situations. Getting through these moments and trials can help you feel accomplished and give you the confidence you need so you’re equipped to meet challenges when they inevitably arise again!


Other Resources

SSI or SSDI Work Incentives: https://www.ssa.gov/disabilityresearch/workincentives.htm

Sustainable Gainful Activity: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/sga.html


Reminder: If you are already working and receive SSI or SSDI benefits, remember to always submit your wages to social security!


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