The National Disability Institute (NDI) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower all Americans with disabilities to have a more financially secure future. As part of that mission, NDI provides training and assistance to employment service providers through the American Dream Employment Network (ADEN), an approved administrative employment network of the Social Security Administration’s Ticket To Work program.
Since it was founded in 2015, ADEN has grown rapidly, now boasting a nationwide presence, an expanding member base, and a thriving network of employer partners.
Members: 65 service providers
Partners: 900 employers
Participants: 936 individuals
Ticket to Work is a free and voluntary Social Security Administration (SSA) Program that connects individuals who receive disability benefits with free employment services that help them prepare for work, find a job, or maintain success while they are working. These service providers are called employment networks (ENs).
For employment service providers, the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program is a valuable opportunity to expand their service menu and reach a broader range of individuals. However, launching and running a Ticket to Work program comes with a lot of extra administrative duties.
As Ticket to Work providers themselves, Kevin Nickerson and Mary Lynn Revoir understood these challenges well. So when the two founded the American Dream Employment Network (ADEN), a division of the National Disability Institute (NDI), the idea was simple: take away the admin headaches so providers can focus on service delivery.
“ADEN doesn’t provide any direct services,” explains Mary Lynn. “We take care of the administrative duties for our members, including providing technical assistance and training to employment service providers, so they can come onboard and get a turnkey operation.”
In just six years, ADEN has become one of the largest administrative employment networks in the country. Its members include existing Ticket to Work providers, as well as those that are new and want to participate in the program.
“ADEN has 65 member agencies, each with as many as five or six staff,” says Mary Lynn. “In other words, we have a lot of folks who we’re trying to give technical assistance to.”
This rapid growth meant that Mary Lynn and Kevin were constantly looking for ways to be more efficient.
To that end, they envisioned creating a portal where ADEN providers could securely communicate, manage consumer data, and track outcomes. This would streamline documentation, and also make it easier for them and their members to get paid.
“We get paid when an individual gets a job and has monthly earnings at a certain level, and then they have to continue that level or even make higher wages,” explains Mary Lynn. “We give 75% of that payment to our members, and we retain 25% for our administrative services.”
In the past, Mary Lynn and Kevin had used a generic customer relationship management (CRM) system to organize all this information, but it had significant limitations — the most significant of which was the communication barrier between them and the CRM provider’s support team.
“The CRM provider didn’t speak our language,” recalls Kevin. “We had a very hard time translating what we understand into a product that we wanted to have work in a certain way.”
Because of this frustration, Mary Lynn and Kevin tapped into their network to find out what platforms other disability service agencies were using.
“One of our affiliates mentioned that they had just signed on with SETWorks,” says Mary Lynn. “So we were like, well what’s that, and how does that work? That’s how we got connected.”
What immediately stood out to Mary Lynn and Kevin was that the team at SETWorks spoke the industry language and understood their space.
“SETWorks is designed for the disability service community, and they have a genuine interest in the livelihood of people with disabilities,” explains Mary Lynn.
This, along with the fact that SETWorks was so affordable, made it a much better fit for their needs.
Figuring out the best way to set up the SETWorks portal for ADEN’s unique business model took some thought and planning, but Mary Lynn appreciated how invested the SETWorks team was in their success.
“SETWorks has always gone so far above and beyond in their responsiveness and willingness to work with us.”
Migrating thousands of files from their existing CRM into SETWorks was a concern for ADEN.
“We were just crossing our fingers that everything got matched in the right places,” says Mary Lynn. “In the end, we found less than 10 things that didn’t quite transfer right — which is very successful. The SETWorks team did a great job”.
“The transition from the previous platform to SETWorks couldn’t have gone any smoother,” adds Kevin. “The SETWorks team made it so much easier for us.”
After that, Mary Lynn says using SETWorks was intuitive.
“I’m kind of old school; I’m not really into technology. But I really enjoyed learning SETWorks, so that says something.”
ADEN provides the SETWorks portal free of charge for its members. Employment service providers are able to maintain their consumer records and store all their documents in the SETWorks portal, which has eliminated the need for paper files.
“Every document — whether it’s a letter that an individual received from Social Security, or pay stubs, or other documents that they have to obtain — that’s all housed in that individual’s record in SETWorks,” explains Mary Lynn.
This strategy ensures that providers can quickly find the information they need, while maintaining compliance with Social Security requirements.
SETWorks also provides a secure messaging platform. For Mary Lynn and Kevin, it was a huge change from the email-heavy communication process of the past.
“Before, we’d have to send an email and say, ‘Go look at ID number so-and-so’ and then try to find that ID number,” recalls Mary Lynn. “We used to be able to put it in a password-protected attachment, but we couldn’t even do that anymore with newer Ticket to Work rules. So SETWorks’ built-in messaging has simplified life tremendously. Now we can just message the provider and say, ‘Go look at John Smith’s record’, and they get a notification in their email inbox saying there’s a message awaiting them in SETWorks.”
In addition, SETWorks provides much-needed visibility across their entire operations.
“We’re able to pull things like: How many people are working? What’s the average hourly wage? How many months was it from the time they came onboard to the time they got a job?” says Kevin. “Not only can we pull data like that, the individual members can too, so that they can make business decisions.”
Today, ADEN members serve 35 states — and that number is growing every day. According to Kevin, SETWorks is part of the solution that allows them to be effective in their work, regardless of where that work is located in the country.
Going forward, Mary Lynn and Kevin are excited about how the partnership with SETWorks can help them expand and multiply their impact.
“We’re able to utilize the reports in SETWorks to see the big picture. For example, we can look at how much we pay the providers, or to look for quality assurance in areas where maybe we need to change our training or create something new to make it more efficient,” says Mary Lynn.
Kevin hopes to streamline service delivery even further this year by introducing a new feature that will allow users to capture signatures electronically.
“Having the ability to sign important documents securely in SETWorks is really going to strengthen our work and take it to the next level.”
But the most significant advantage from their previous CRM system, and the reason their partnership with SETWorks works so well, is the people behind it.
“You can learn a product, but it’s the people that make the difference. The SETWorks team are good listeners; we can talk to them, and they can explain things to us that were very difficult for our old CRM provider to even understand,” says Mary Lynn.
With SETWorks by their side, Mary Lynn and Kevin are excited about the future.
“Having support from the SETWorks team to think through the way we do business has helped us come up with technology solutions that we might not have thought of on our own. SETWorks is secure and customer-focused. I can’t think of another better option for disability service agencies that even exists.”
SETWorks is comprehensive disability service management software, built to handle the needs of disability service agencies and empower them across programs, on any device.
Our team of experts speak your industry language and are here to provide you with personalized advice and solutions to your most pressing challenges.