National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network (NEON)

Awarded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy

Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation was awarded technical assistance from NEON for benefits counseling and developing a statewide strategic plan. Colorado believes that benefits counseling is tantamount to informed choice regarding employment. People with disabilities have the highest rates of poverty than any other sub-group in the United States and this has been the case for at least 17 years (US Census Bureau 2018). Data also shows that there is a large gap between participation rates in the workforce between people with disabilities and people without disabilities (US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020). In light of these facts, one can easily conclude that the existing public benefits designed to ameliorate high rates of poverty among people with disabilities fall short; and that an obvious way to combat this high poverty rate is to increase the number of people with disabilities who participate in the competitive integrated workforce.

Data from several studies demonstrates the positive connection between the receipt of comprehensive benefits counseling and employment outcomes and increased earnings for public benefit recipients. (Mathematica’s report to U.S Department of Labor Office of Disability and Employment Policy, April 18,2018, citing (Honeycutt, T., Wittenburg, D., Luecking, R., Crane, K., & Mann, D., 2018));Wilhelm, S & McConnick, S(2011); Kregel (2012); Nazarov, Z. (August 2013); Schlegelmilch A, Roskowski M, Anderson C, Hartman E, & Decker-Maurer H. Another study provides evidence that individualized benefits counseling services are associated withsignificant increases in earnings for SSA disability beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities. Tremblay T, Smith J, Xie H,& Drake RE (2006).

Colorado sees benefits planning as a tool for those receiving all forms of local and state public assistance such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Low energy assistance program, housing assistance, phone assistance, education assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, etc in addition to SSI/SSDI. This means we believe in benefits planning even when an individual does not receive SSI or SSDI.

The Colorado NEON project goals:

  • Develop and implement a communication message across all networks in Colorado simplifying benefits planning emphasizing Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility.
  • Develop a research question to measure the value of benefits planning services
  • Develop statewide strategy plan to increase awareness on benefits planning to: businesses, schools, state agencies, community based organizations, peer networks, advocacy organizations, people with disabilities, and families.

For more information and opportunities to participate in these activities, please contact:

Peter Pike –

Katie Taliercio –

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