Staff Feature: Jenny Simmons

How long have you worked at Abilitree?
I have worked at Abilitree in the Social Security Disability Advocacy department since November of 2017. My role as a Social Security Representative is to help people with disabilities obtain the benefits they are entitled to. I build people’s cases, gather pertinent evidence, and represent them in front of judges at their Social Security disability hearings. I have now been working as a certified Social Security Representative for over 3 years at Abilitree.
What drew you to working at Abilitree?
Before coming to Abilitree in 2017, I had a 12-year background in court reporting for Social Security Disability hearings. When I found out there was a non-profit here in Bend (Abilitree) that advocates for people with disabilities in obtaining SSD benefits I was keen to jump on board. It is a difficult system to navigate and the need is there for representation. Since I have an extensive background in this area, I felt I could contribute in helping folks obtain benefits, but I also loved the idea of working for a non-profit. 
What continues to impact you about your job?
I love working with people. Each individual’s case is unique and it is important for me to get to know each person to adequately advocate for them. I really enjoy the process of developing relationships with each person that I represent.
What impact do you think you have on making our community stronger?
Social Security Disability is a federal program that benefits so many individuals who simply cannot work competitively due to their medical impairment(s). It is a program that aids people in gaining independence who may not otherwise be able to earn income by working. However, the process of applying for and securing benefits can be, and often is, long and arduous. The rules and regulations can be tough to interpret. There are so many people in need of adequate representation during this process; I believe my knowledge of the system from the inside out as a court reporter, as well as my understanding of the rules, is critical in assisting people throughout this program. In helping people with disabilities obtain benefits, I see them gain a level of independence and freedom that they may not otherwise have. Communities are stronger when all members have a healthy sense of well-being and self worth. 
How has COVID-19 changed how you support people?
Fortunately, COVID-19 has made very little impact on the ability to do my job. I make contact with people through telephone calls, text messaging, and email. It has worked very well and I feel that I am able to advocate and assist in the same ways I could when I was conducting in-person meetings. I feel very lucky to be able to say that. These are trying and unpredictable times, but at least I know I can still do my job and help people through this process without complications.
For more information on our Social Security Advocacy Service click here
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