Welcome to the Fall 2014 edition of In Touch, the quarterly newsletter of Independence Now. Please use the in-page links below to naviagte to the various articles. For your convenience there is a "back to top" link after each article.

In Touch

Year IN Review

Independence Now has the privilege to serve people with disabilities in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. We work diligently to make our programs the best they can be! We are constantly learning about resources, building relationships and going below the surface to make sure consumers achieve their goals. The philosophy of consumer (a person with a disability) control is thick within the walls of Independence Now. We truly believe that people with disabilities are the best experts on their own needs and choices.

Many of our events, workshops and seminars are based on the needs and directed towards goal achievement. For this fiscal year IN has hosted 63 events totaling 189.25 hours with 376 attendees.

Some of the events included:

Transportation Action Group (TAG)
Movie Advocacy Night
Youth/Transition Services
Understanding Service Delivery Systems
Latin American Heritage Symposium
No Excuses INNOW
Men's Health Celebration
Stroke and Brain Injury Open House
Pampering with A Purpose Women's Group
Meet 'N' Greets at Nursing Facilities

Creative Cooking
Housing Seminar
Nursing Facility Outreach
Employment Seminar
Let's Get Together
Youth Field Day Expo
Consumer Holiday Event
Benefits Planning for the Deaf
Teen w/Disabilities Holiday Expo
Representative Payee & Budgeting Workshop

In addition to providing our four core services, Advocacy, Information & Referral, Peer Mentoring and Independent Living Skills Training, IN has utilized other in-house programs to assist people with disabilities to continue living independently within their communities. These programs include Maryland Work Incentive Network (MD-WIN) — benefits planning for recipients of SSI and SSDI who are working or are planning to return to work; Travel Training program — assistance with using Metro's fixed-route public bus and rail transportation services; and Home/Vehicle Modification and Assistive Technology program — assistance with residential and vehicle accessibility modification or acquiring equipment.

With this strong support within Independence Now plus the community agencies with whom we network, people with disabilities have an opportunity to form a strong support system that will help them thrive in their homes, community, work place and with personal independence.

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From MD-WIN...

Medical Reviews - Not as Scary as you Think

When somebody is approved for disability benefits from Social Security, they have proved to SSA that they have a serious medical condition and that that medical condition limits their ability to work at a substantial level. Social Security will periodically check to see if you still meet both of these standards. The reviews they conduct, called Continuing Disability Reviews, are handled separately for each of these circumstances. If SSA finds that you do not meet the criteria for either of these standards, your benefits may be affected.

Some people are afraid that working will cause SSA to conduct a medical review. That does not happen. Medical CDRs are conducted on a cycle. The frequency of the reviews is determined by SSA when they decide how likely it is that you might medically recover. Medical CDR cycles range from 1-7 years in length. The more likely you are to recover, the shorter your review cycle will be.

Many people have disabilities that will never change. However, if you are concerned that you may have improved medically and may not meet SSA's standards for benefits, there are some ways to protect yourself. You can use your Ticket to Work with an Employment Network or with DORS. As long as your Ticket is assigned or In-use, and you are making timely progress towards the eventual goal of working off cash benefits, SSA will put your medical reviews on hold. They will, however, review your progress to make sure that you are getting closer to earning enough from work to replace the cash benefits. If SSA does conduct a medical CDR and they find that you no longer meet the medical standard, but you are actively participating in a program for employment, you can continue to receive payments under Section 301. Programs for employment include DORS, Employment Networks, public or private schools with IDEA funding (you must have an IEP) or a Plan to Achieve Self Support. Each of these programs should have a start date for you when you began in their program. That date must be before you medically recovered. These programs also should have an expected end date for your plan. Your eligibility for payments can continue to that end date and no longer.

These are the protections that SSA has put into place for people who are concerned about medical reviews. You will notice that each of them has a work element. This is Social Security's way of saying that they would rather you work off cash benefits than be cut of benefits entirely. There are a whole host of work incentives that can help you manage your benefits while you are working. In most cases, you can keep your health coverage (Medicare and/or Medical Assistance) even if your cash benefits stop. There are no incentives once you have been found to not meet the medical standards any more.

If you have any questions or concerns about this, call your friendly neighborhood Community Work Incentives Coordinator.

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Apply for Financial Help With Your Health Insurance Plan in 2015

Maryland Health Connection is our state's health insurance marketplace. Open enrollment at Maryland Health Connection is coming soon. All Marylanders who want financial assistance with a plan starting Jan. 1 should apply between Nov. 15 and Dec. 18 — even if you already had a plan and financial assistance in 2014. Visit Maryland Health Connection to apply for financial aid and for post open-enrollment options. For more information or contact your Independent Living Specialist at Independence Now.

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Accessing Your Social Security Benefits information

If you receive Social Security benefits or have Medicare you may want a "my Social Security" account, which will able you to:

  • Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them
  • Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
  • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working; and
  • Much more! Visit http://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/ for more information.

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Independence Now Welcomes volunteers and Gallaudet University Intern

Danielle Bustos is a previous consumer of Independence Now and a YLF alumni. She is a recent graduate from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, where she studied Spanish and chemistry as an undergraduate. She is in the process of applying for graduate school. She comes from a Bolivian heritage and recently traveled there for a family reunion. One of her favorite activities is to attend festivals around the DC area. Her hope is that she can be instrumentals in changing the way that people with disabilities are perceived in society, but her biggest goal in life is to be happy.

Pernell Penny a graduate of the Office Skill Training program of The Arc of Prince Georges County — MD. He received his High School education from Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in Washington DC. As a volunteer at IN, Pernell is increasing his general office skills and acquiring new skills. He is assisting with administrative tasks, Independent Living Services and other programs at IN. He is a welcomed addition.

Albert McCrea is a Social Work student and the football captain at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. For the 2014-2015 academic year, he will be interning as an Independent Living (IL) Specialist here at Independence Now. He was born and raised in Gaithersburg, MD, then relocated to Kennesaw, GA where he graduated from Allatoona High School. He is fluent in American Sign Language. He is looking forward to working with consumers and learning from the staff at IN this year.

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IN Cooking Class & Holiday Celebration

gingerbreadhouseDec 9th, 11 am - 3 pm

Grab all your gum drops and your peppermint sticks, your gingerbread recipe and your little bag of tricks! Join us for a Gingerbread Holiday Party as we celebrate another year of accomplished goals and service. Celebrate with food, friends, door prizes, gifts and music.

You must RSVP with your IL Specialist by December 1, 2014.

LOCATION: Christ Congregational Church, 9525 Colesville, RD, Silver Spring, MD 20901.

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EMPLOYMENT SEMINAR

Nov. 10th, 1 - 3 pm

MAKING GOALS, MAKING CONNECTIONS, JOB FINDING
Interested in obtaining employment to improve your self-sufficiency and independence? Join IN's staff to explore ways to reach your career choice and develop skills to be successful in your job search.

Contact Kelvin Hawkins at 240.638.0068 to register.

Location: 12301 Old Columbia Pike, Suite 101, Silver Spring, MD 20904

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HOUSING SEMINARS

Oct. 23rd, 1 - 3 pm
RENTAL AND UTILITY ASSISTANCE
This workshop will focus on aid available to both Montgomery and Prince George's Co. residents. Resources will be available for how to get assistance with utilities, and rent.

Nov. 20th, 1 - 3 pm
GETTING YOUR CREDIT IN ORDER
Find out how to retrieve your credit report and your credit score, and learn how to dispute your credit report. Presenter, Lori Jankalski, Executive Vice President, Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) of MD & DE, Inc. Contact Rochelle Harrod to schedule an individualized session by Nov. 13th.

Dec. 18th, 1 - 3 pm
THE CHALLENGE OF FINDING ACCESSIBLE, AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Though we know that obtaining accessible and affordable housing is a challenge, we can take on the challenge by becoming informed and being ready. Learn about the different types of Subsidized Housing and other housing in your area, such as Section 8, Public Housing and Section 811 housing.

Contact Rochelle Harrod at 240.898.2184 to register
Location: 12301 Old Columbia Pike, Suite 101, Silver Spring, MD 20904

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LET'S GET TOGETHER (NURSING HOME TRANSITIONING)

Oct 15th, 2 - 4 pm
Thinking about, planning for, or in the process of moving back into the community from a Nursing Facility? You are invited to come to IN and mingle with people who, like you, are in different phases of transition. Please feel free to invite anyone who is in a nursing facility and may be interested in transitioning to the community.

Contact Shannon Minnick at 240.630-0070 or sminnick@innow.org to register.
Location: 12301 Old Columbia Pike, Suite 101, Silver Spring, MD 20904

Nov 14th, 2:30 - 4 pm
Crescent Cities Happy Hour
Join your neighbors and Independence Now staff for a time of fun, sharing information and making connections.

Contact: Rochelle Harrod, IL Specialist at 240-898-2184 or rharrod@innow.org to register or for more information.

Dec 11th, 2 - 4 pm
Heartland of Hyattsville, Meet-N-Greet Karaoke Social Hour
Join your neighbors and Independence Now staff for a time of fun, sharing information and making connections.

Contact: Rochelle Harrod, IL Specialist at 240-898-2184 or rharrod@innow.org to register or for more information.

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LUNCH / CREATIVE COOKING

Nov 12th, 11 am - 3 pm
Join Independence Now to learn how to prepare a simple, quick, low cost meal with hands-on cooking. In a perfect world, everything we eat would taste delicious, be super-convenient, and offer plenty of nutritional benefits. But do such foods exist in the real world? Join INNOW as we learn about the 10 Foods Nutritionists Love.

Contact Shannon Minnick at 240.630-0070 to register.
Location: 12301 Old Columbia Pike, Suite 101, Silver Spring MD 20904

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MY VOICE (Youth) EVENT

Nov. 8th, 1 - 3 pm
YOUTH with Disabilities — Meet new friends! Share a discussion about family, school, relationships and the future and living on your own. Light snacks and travel reimbursement for public transportation will be provided.

Parents join us for the last 15 minutes to see what happens at Independence Now!

Contact Katie Carroll at kcarroll@innow.org or 240-638-006
Location: 12301 Old Columbia Pike, Suite 101, Silver Spring, MD 20904

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NO EXCUSES INNOW

Oct. 1st, 2 - 4 pm
Nov. 5th, 2 - 4 pm
Dec. 3rd, 2 - 4 pm

Do you have a newly acquired injury, significant change in your disability and a goal to improve your quality of life? If you answered yes, join No Excuses INNOW Independent Living Skills Training Group. Independent Living Skills Training is intended to empower people with newly acquired disabilities to develop the skills needed to live independently. Independent Living Skills Trainers will provide participants with the opportunity to make appropriate choices and learn the skills that will assist them to achieve and maintain the highest level of independence possible.

Contact Shannon Minnick at 240-630-0070 to register.
Location: 12301 Old Columbia Pike, Suite 101, Silver Spring, MD 20904

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TRANSPORTATION ACTION GROUP (TAG)

Oct. 8th, 12 - 2 pm
Accessible Vans and Vehicle Modifications presented by Oneness Mobility

This presentation will be all about hand controls, Accessible and Lift Options, and how to finance for your purchase.
Snacks will be provided.

Dec. 10th, 12 - 2 pm
Thornette Leacock, Prince George's County Transportation ADA coordinator, THE BUS Services, will present on Call-A-Ride and The Bus.

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Youth Holiday Extravaganza (ages 10 to 21)

Dec. 14th, 2 - 6 pm
Happy Holiday's! Joyeuses F?tes! Felices Fiestas! Li Holide Eximnandi! Jie Ri Yu Kuai! Please join us for our annual Youth Holiday Extravaganza for fun, food, live entertainment, gifts and good conversation Sunday, December 14 at 2 p.m.

You Must R.S.V.P. by Dec 10th
Contact: Shannon Minnick 240-638-0070 or sminnick@innow.org
Location: MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, 102 Irving Street, NW Washington, DC 20010

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Friends and Colleagues

Please consider choosing Independence Now in your annual giving plan through the Maryland Charity Campaign (#2664) and the Combined Federal Campaign (#59275). Naming Independence Now as your charity of choice provides us with funds we need to continue supporting people with disabilities to lead independent lives in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. The funds allow us to host events, including providing transportation for our consumers, to our housing seminars, youth leadership sessions and other independent living skills training.

We appreciate your support!

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