Workshop prompted by confusion over Social Security disability benefits

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Coral McConnell has lived on Social Security benefits for 15 years, yet the $609 a month never seems to cover the bills.

McConnell was under the impression that picking up a job to make ends meet meant she'd have to give up the benefits.

"Any kind of work would be great for me," she said. "It's been a struggle most of the time. There always seems to be more month at the end of the money."

But a Thursday morning meeting sponsored by the Independent Life Center of Craig aims to clear up that misunderstanding among residents who receive the disability payments.

"We get questions about this on a daily basis," said Evelyn Tileston, director of the Craig's Independent Life Center. "People think, 'I have a disability, I can't work.' But that's not true.

"That people can earn money and receive benefits is of the greatest importance to us," she added. "They need to know that they are not doomed."

People receiving Social Security payments fall under different categories, Tileston said.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, 16 percent of Moffat County residents are eligible for disability assistance.

Some people already receiving the disability benefits may work part-time and earn up to $720 a month without the threat of losing the monthly payments. That would go a long way toward helping residents bridge the gap on increasing medication costs, utility bills and other living expenses, Tileston said.

"Our job is to help people maximize their financial resources," she said. "There are rules and we want to make people aware of them."

David Nelson, a benefits planner with United Cerebral Palsy is scheduled to facilitate the workshop. Nelson works mostly with people on a one-on-one basis and this is the first time the workshop has been offered in Craig.

Community service care providers are also invited to learn more about the system in order to help clients, he said.

"Social Security rules change constantly," he said. "This will tell people how it works and how their benefits will be affected."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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