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Facts About Mental Illness And Employment

Employmen tInterviewThere are a number of mental health centers in King County that can assist you with employment matters. It is very important that you work closely with a benefit specialist at your mental health agency or call Positive Solutions at 206-322-8181. These agencies understand all the details of how employment affects your benefits. If you carefully follow the social security rules, you don’t have to worry about losing your medications, your medical coupon, or your social security check. Here are a few facts related to employment and the effects on your benefits.

Fact 1: Unemployment can hurt your mental health

Research studies on people who are unemployed show them to be more likely to be depressed, abuse substances, feel worthless, be isolated from others, be self-pitying/self-absorbed, and to be poor.


Fact 2: Employment can be good for your mental health

There is no research to indicate that work makes psychiatric symptoms worse! Studies show that diagnosis, number of hospitalizations, types or degree of symptoms, and other aspects of mental illness do not predict who will succeed in holding a job. In fact, there are studies that indicate that 60-70% of people with severe mental illnesses want to go back to work, and that work can improve self-esteem and the ability to control symptoms.


Fact 3: Employment inspires hope and recovery

Many people who are in recovery from severe mental illness talk about how their return to work was a very important step in rebuilding their lives. By building confidence about their ability to work, they built confidence in other areas of life as well.



Fact 4: Employment provides more money with which to build a better life

Although your SSI check is reduced for any income you make above $85 per month, you will have more money to spend or save by working and continuing to receive a SSI check. If you receive the standard individual SSI benefit of $637* per month and earn $1000 a month from work, you would keep about $542 dollars more than you get from a SSI check alone. If you make $200 per month from work, you would keep about $142 more than you get from SSI alone. Furthermore, income you save for a specific work goal through the “plan to achieve self support” (PASS) program is not included when calculating how your work earnings impact your SSI check. Like many workers these days, you would be paying part of your income for your health insurance (medical coupon)


If you receive Social Security Disability (SSDI), you are allowed nine “trial work months” in a five year period without impacting your SSDI benefit. A trial work month is any month in which your income (minus work expenses) is more than $670* month. After completing the Trial Work Period, you receive your SSDI benefit for the next 36 months that you earn less than $940* month.


* Note: These amounts are based on 2008 funding allocations. For the most updated information, consult the benefits specialist at your mental health agency or call Positive Solutions at 206-322-8181.

Fact 5: If you are on SSDI and meet financial minimums, you can purchase medical coupons to pay for your medication and medical care.


A state program called Healthcare for Workers with Disabilities (HWD) allows people with disabilities to purchase medical coupons on a very reasonable sliding fee schedule. If your net income is less than $1,872 per month for one person, you can purchase medical coupons to pay for your medication and medical care.

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Phone 206-263-9000

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Fax: 206-296-0583