County Comment: New Disability Workforce Program Touted at Disabilities Forum
Photo Cap: Cathy Raggio (L) Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities presents a Governor's Proclamation to Disabilities Advisory Committee Chair Peggy Martin
New Disability Workforce Program Touted at Disabilities Forum
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer
Cathy Raggio, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), discussed a new program that will enable people with disabilities to go to work without fear of losing medical benefits in Hagerstown on October 15th, at the Western Maryland Disability Forum
The Washington County Disability Advisory Committee in cooperation with Deafnet, Inc. and the Washington County Health System, held the forum to assess emerging or ongoing needs of people who have disabilities in the region, as part of annual Disabilities Awareness Month activities in the County.
The new program, called the Employed Individuals with Disabilities Outreach Program (EID) will increase access to work and Medicaid coverage for Marylanders who have disabilities.
Raggio said that 60% of citizens with disabilities in the state do not work, mainly our of fear that their Social Security disability benefits will be cut or eliminated.
The program, would affect those who must have medical insurance whose income and resources would otherwise disqualify them from receiving public medical insurance through other programs.
People who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but who cannot qualify for Medicaid would be eligible for the program. Persons who have a disability should be employed, but that could mean as little as babysitting once a month. Income and asset limits include $10,000 in assets excluding a home and vehicles, and earnings levels as high as $62,000 per year for an individual and $83,000 per year for a couple. Cost for the insurance is $150.00 per year.
EID Project Director Michael Dalto said that because of the high income limits, the program enables people who would not be working at all, or holding their earnings to low levels because they thought it was required to receive SSDI benefits, to work and earn more.
The overall goal of the MDOD employment programs are to get people with disabilities into the workforce. Assistive Technology programs are also available to assist people with employment and living skills.
MDOD can be contacted on the internet at www.mdod.state.us or by phone at
In Washington County, the Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) to the Board of County Commissioners, composed of people with disabilities, family members and professionals in the field, works to keep the Commissioners aware of issues facing people with disabilities that need county support, and both physical and attitudinal barriers that can be eliminated by working together.
The Washington County Office on Disability Issues acts as liaison between the Commission and the DAC. Recently the office, in cooperation with the County Emergency Management Agency, facilitated dissemination of an instructional DVD produced by the Maryland Department of Disabilities and the Baltimore County Fire Department titled "Working with People with Disabilities". All Fire and Emergency Service companies in Washington County received copies of the DVD, which provides best practices for interaction with people who have a variety of disabilities, in emergency situations.
The Disabilities Advisory Committee is looking for new members. Although more than 50% of the committee members have disabilities or have family members with a disability, anyone may apply for membership. The individual must live in Washington County, and be available to meet on the second Wednesday of each month, from 2-3:30 p.m. Meetings are currently being held in the Commission on Aging offices in the Aspire to Serve Building 140 West Franklin Street in Hagerstown.
Prospective DAC members can go on-line to register, at www.washco-md.net. On the main page choose the link to eGeorge, the County's guide to on-line services. On that page there is a link titled "Volunteer for a County Board". If the internet is not available, persons could call the Office on Disability Issues at 240-313-2077, and an application will be provided. Persons needing special accommodations with such an application should call the Disabilities Office.