RICHARD A. STEVENSONMembers of my staff and I regularly attend various trainings to keep us up to date on issues that affect our clients. Recently some of my staff attended a talk by a Representative of the Social Security Administration, Melinda Zenk. Ms. Zenk spoke about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits and Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

Ms. Zenk’s presentation was during the Social Service Agency luncheon occurring once a month at Broadway Christian Church. At least one and often more of our staff members regularly attend these meetings, which provide opportunities for education and networking with other agencies.

Ms. Zenk began by explaining differences between SSI and SSD. SSI disability benefits are based on financial need. A work history of making payments to Social Security is not necessary to receive these benefits. SSD benefits are available for persons who have worked, paid into Social Security and later become disabled.

Both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration, and a disabled individual can begin the application process online at the Social Security website. One of the most interesting topics addressed by Ms. Zenk was that of disabled persons who still want to work. She spoke about a work incentives program aimed at helping disabled persons obtain and maintain employment.

Keeping up on these programs is very important to us because many of our representative payee clients receive SSI or SSD benefits. Our Representative Payee Program is one of the least known, yet one of the most important programs our office offers. Payee Program Director SuzAnne Runge and her staff continue to work daily to refine this already successful program that assists persons who, due to challenges, need help managing their own money.

Wayne Township’s Representative Payee Program is voluntarily on the part of those who want to take advantage of the program. Participants’ income is deposited directly into a Wayne Township bank account. Then our staff, using the participant’s own money, pays the client’s bills.

Our first priority is to make sure bills for the client’s basic necessities are paid. Basic necessities include housing, utilities, food, medical expenses and personal care items. Once those bills are paid, we try to put some of the client’s money into savings for emergencies and still be able to give the clients some spending money. This is a difficult task at times since SSI and SSD checks are small and often barely cover basic necessities.

Our Payee staff tries to get to know each Payee client personally and to advocate for them, if necessary, both in the financial arena and in their quality of life. Numerous times over the years our staff has resolved problems for Payee clients that they were unable work out themselves. Our Payee staff also looks for free or low-cost programs to recommend to the Payee participants to enhance their quality of life. We do all of this at no charge to the payee client and as part of our mission as a community leader in countering the effects of poverty.

Before I close, I wanted to call your attention to a special event in the Waynedale area on Sunday, April 22. Earth Day Fort Wayne will be celebrated on that day beginning at 1 p.m. at Eagle Marsh, 6801 Engle Road. This free event will include workshops on environmental topics, along with trail hikes and tree planting; and is sponsored by several organizations including the Little River Wetlands Project. Eagle Marsh has 11 miles of hiking trails and is home to dozens of animal species including muskrats, foxes and birds.

Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee