Get helpful information about state and federal benefits you may be eligible for. At the Threshold Program Alumni Center, we can help you navigate these services:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Department of Developmental Services (DDS)
- Mass Health
- MBTA Disability Pass
- SNAP (Food Stamps)
- Vocational Rehabilitation
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Applying for Social Security benefits can be an intimidating task, and we’re here to help you with the process. Apply online for Social Security.
Qualifications for SSI or SSDI
As an individual with a disability, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The most important reason individuals apply is for the monthly cash benefit.
You should apply for benefits if your disability makes it challenging for you to cover basic expenses. Use the Social Security screening tool to find out what benefits you may be eligible for through Social Security.
SSI versus SSDI
SSI is need-based and helps low-income individuals who aren’t able to work or who are unable to work enough to cover their monthly expenses. SSI is based on your monthly income and overall assets.
SSDI is a benefit for people who have already worked, paid social security tax, and earned work credits. This means you must have worked for a certain period of time to qualify. Work Credits vary based on age. Find out how many work credits you need. SSDI eligibility is based on monthly income, but not overall assets.
Applying for SSI or SSDI
The application for SSDI and SSI is the same. The Social Security Administration determines which program you qualify for, if any. Apply for SSI or SSDI.
Direct all questions to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office handling your case. A decision may take 90–120 days. Many claims are denied, but don't worry. The next section walks you through the appeal process.
Many claims get denied, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get benefits. You’re more likely to receive benefits by appealing than by reapplying.
Contact the Social Security Administration to understand your denial. We can connect you with local resources that help in the appeals process. During an appeal, many families hire an attorney who specializes in Social Security.
Department of Development Services (DDS)
Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, according to the DSM V, may qualify for services regardless of their IQ score. as long as they have functional limitations in 3 of the following areas:
- Expressive communication
- Receptive communication
- Capacity for self-direction
- Economic self sufficiency
Alumni would need to be reevaluated with the DSM V classifications. Individuals that don’t have an ASD diagnosis but do have a specific diagnosis of an intellectual disability or a full-scale IQ of under 70, and in some cases, under 75, may qualify for services.
Mass Health provides health care coverage for qualifying individuals living in Massachusetts. You can apply for Mass Health through the Massachusetts Health Connector.
Qualifications for Mass Health
- You are a disabled person according to the standards set by federal and state law OR
- You are eligible based on special rules, including low income
Mass Health Coverage
In many cases, you can start receiving coverage 10 days prior to the date Mass Health receives your application. Once you receive coverage, you’ll need to find a doctor who takes the specific plan you’ve been assigned. You can find a doctor on the health connector website or from a referral through the Threshold Alumni Center.
Let Mass Health know of any changes as soon as possible, including changes in income, employment, disability status, health insurance, and address. If you don’t report your changes, you may lose your benefits.
Out-of-State Emergency Treatment
In some cases, Mass Health may pay for emergency treatment when you are out of state. Try to report any out-of-state emergency treatments to your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Mass Health doesn’t cover any medical services provided outside the United States and its territories.
Applying for Health Insurance
If you are living in Massachusetts, apply for Mass Health through the MA Health Connector.
If you are living outside of Massachusetts, visit the federal site: healthcare.gov. Select your state to view the affordable healthcare options.
MBTA Disability Pass
Individuals with disabilities can get a Transportation Access Pass (TAP) CharlieCard to ride the MBTA at discounted rates. To get a TAP CharlieCard for the first time, complete a TAP application. Our Threshold Alumni Center can help you qualify for the pass.
The CharlieCard Store
The CharlieCard Store is at Downtown Crossing Station (underground concourse) in Boston. Get there by the Red and Orange MBTA subway lines.
Hours: Monday–Friday, 8:00 am–5:30 pm
If you have a missing or expired pass, go to the CharlieCard Store at Downtown Crossing with a photo ID for a replacement card, or contact the Threshold Alumni Center.
SNAP (Food Stamps)
SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which used to be called Food Stamps. SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food at grocery stores and now even some farmers’ markets, making shopping for healthy food easier. SNAP benefits are given to you each month on a plastic card called an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer). The card looks and works just like a debit card.
Qualifying for SNAP
Different people qualify for the nutritional assistance program, including those who are working in a paid position. We recommend using this free, online SNAP (Food Stamps) screening tool to see if you qualify. The screening tool does not cover everything; so, if you think you may qualify, we can help you with the application process.
- Applying for SNAP
Affordable housing options in Massachusetts have very long waiting lists. If you qualify, we recommend applying; however, you should know that this process takes a lot of time. The earlier you apply, the better off you'll be.
Rental Assistance (Section 8)
Rental assistance programs, including federally funded Section 8, help low-income individuals rent apartments by providing financial assistance through local housing authorities. Eligibility is based on income. You can find the income for the particular city or town you may be interested in through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
People who are granted Section 8 pay a percentage of their monthly rent and the Section 8 voucher covers the difference. The apartment’s landlord decides the rent amount.
Application and Waiting List for Section 8 Housing
We recommend applying to the centralized waiting list. There are 98 communities participating in the centralized waiting list. Obtain a Section 8 application, or apply online for the centralized waiting list.
You may also apply to each housing authority that doesn’t participate in the centralized list. The City of Cambridge doesn’t participate in the list, but their application can be found through the Cambridge Housing Authority.
State Aided Public Housing
There are different types of public housing, such as housing for families, elderly, and individuals with disabilities. Your income must be less than 80 percent of the area median income. Income guidelines vary depending on the location and year. View the guidelines via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The rent you pay is based on your household income and expenses.
Application and Waiting List for Public Housing
The waiting list for public housing is very long. You must put your name on the waiting list that is kept by the local housing authority in the community where you want to live. You can put your name on as many lists as you qualify for. Update your contact information, especially phone numbers and address, with the housing authority so they are able to reach you.
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission's (MRC) Vocational Rehabilitation Program provides employment support, including finding or maintaining a job. As a graduate of Threshold, you qualify for services. We’re happy to refer students to Vocational Rehabilitation programs and help with the application process. Typically, there is a waiting list for these services.