Member Spotlight: Nick Isham
Meet Nick. When he isn’t traveling the world looking for his next cuisine to cook, he wears dual hats as a Benefits Specialist and an Independent Living Specialist at an Independent Living Center. He has a wealth of knowledge about work incentive benefits available to people with disabilities. He works daily to help people understand that they can work while receiving government benefits. He shares some great tips and resources with us. We are so fortunate to have him as a member of the Network.
What kind of work do you do? Where do you work at?
Nick works at Access To Independence which is an Independent Living Center that provides advocacy, services and resources for people with any type of disability and of all ages. He is a Work Incentives Benefits Specialist. He works with people who receive SSI or SSDI who are interested in starting or returning to work. He educates them on work incentives available to them and how to transition off of benefits or how to supplement their benefits with earned income. Nick is also an Independent Living Specialist with Access To Independence which means he helps people with disabilities overcome barriers that may keep them from living as independently as they would like.
Tell us some good news: what’s the most exciting thing happening for you or for people with disabilities who want to work?
Nick points out that if people are on Social Security benefits, they can still work!! He hears about a lot of misinformation that is floating around that you will immediately lose your benefits and health insurance if you go to work. He explains that work incentives are special rules created by the Social Security Administration to allow people to try out working without losing their SSDI, SSI, Medicare, or Medicaid right away. Work Incentives give people time to explore how much they can physically or mentally work comfortably while staying on benefits. “Work Incentives give people time to transition off of benefits. You can even keep your Medicaid if you earn too much to receive SSI,” he says.
What employment tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to work?
Nick explains that if you are receiving Social Security benefits and working with DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) on obtaining employment, be sure to ask your counselor for a Benefits Analysis. A Benefits Analysis will result in a report that will explain the current benefits you are receiving and explain the work incentives available to you to help you achieve your employment and financial goals. The report is specific to your situation and will tell you exactly what happens to your benefits and health insurance if you are working a certain number of hours per week, working part-time, or working full-time. “Knowledge is power,” he exclaims!!
What message would you like to share with the members of the Employment Network?
Nick shares that Access To Independence has been starting some exciting new youth programs! He explains that they have been putting on sessions for youths called Help Yourself! and Skills To Pay The Bills. HelpYourself! is a curriculum that focuses on teaching youths self-advocacy skills and Skills To Pay The Bills is a curriculum that focuses on building “soft skills” for the workplace. They are also putting together a presentation called “Accepting Independence” that they will be doing at the end of June for parents of children with disabilities. The presentation focuses on understanding public benefits for children, dispelling disability myths, and transitioning into adulthood with benefits and explanation of work incentives available. Nick encourages people to contact Access To Independence if you would like to know more about these programs!
What’s your dream vacation?
Nick has already been doing his dream vacations! Recently, he has been to India, Bangladesh, road tripped the southern states, and South Korea! Next on his radar is to road trip all over Mexico (he says he knows it’s dangerous; he promises to be careful) and to explore Tokyo. All of his trips are motivated by getting inspired by the cuisine to expand his cooking prowess!
What are some of your hobbies?
Nick absolutely LOVES to cook! He says he, “can’t stop, won’t stop!” He loves exploring new ways to cook something or exploring new ways to use an ingredient. “I almost never make the same thing the same way again and I like getting a little weird,” he says. He explains that he once depicted an ancient battle between octopuses and quails for earth rule on a large platter with a few delicious sauces. He also has a dog who is a troublemaker, but he likes him.
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