Going to Work Toolbox

Keeping Organized

When you are on benefits, it’s always important to keep all of your benefits information and records organized. When you get a job, you also have to keep your work records organized. Here’s a list of things you need to keep track of:

  • All letters from government agencies, such as Social Security or the Department of Economic Security’s (DES) Family Assistance Administration (FAA)
  • Receipts for medical expenses or for expenses related to your job
  • A list of any phone conversations you’ve had with your benefits program
  • All of your pay stubs from work
  • Documentation of any assistance or accommodations you get on the job

Here we are going to present 3 ideas for how you can document these:

  1. Get Help from an Expert
  2. Create a Benefits and Work Binder
  3. Keep Records on Your Computer

1. Get Help from an Expert

If you have a job coach or an employment support services person, they may be able to help you keep organized. That person can give you advice and even help make copies of your pay stubs and send them to the appropriate agencies for you.

For more information, you can check with the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration (AZRSA) or the community organization that is helping you with employment. You can also talk to a Work Incentive Consultant.

2. Create a Benefits and Work Binder

An excellent way for you to keep your information organized on your own is to create a Benefits and Work Binder.

To do this, buy a 3-ring binder and a 3-hole punch. Then, every time you have an important document that you need to save, use the hole puncher and put the document in your binder. You should also get some plastic sheets for binders that have pockets so that you can put smaller things into your binder, like receipts.

These are the types of documents you need to keep in your binder:

  • Pay stubs
  • Letters from government agencies
  • Fact sheets explaining benefits programs
  • Copies of letters you send to these agencies, including when you reported your income
  • Receipts for out-of-pocket health care expenses
  • Documentation of any assistance or accommodations you get on your job
  • Fax confirmation sheets and receipts if you give something in person to Social Security

It’s also a good idea to buy a 3-hole spiral notebook to add to your binder. This way, you can write notes about anything you do that is related to your benefits. Here are some of the things that you could write notes about:

  • When you mail in a copy of your pay stub, write down the date.
    • For example, “1/3/2022: I sent copies of my pay stubs to Social Security by mail.” Include the address, or if you faxed it, include the number you faxed it to.
  • When you talk to somebody at an agency, write down the date, the name of the person, and the issue you talked about.
    • For example, “On 1/9/2022, I met with Mr. Smith at Social Security and he said he hadn’t gotten my pay stubs. I took my binder with me and had copies of the pay stubs there, so I gave him another copy in person of my December, 2021 stubs.”

The Benefits and Work Binder will help you stay organized over time. You will have all your important letters and papers in one place, if you need to look up something. You can bring your binder with you when you have appointments to talk about your benefits.

3. Keep Records on Your Computer

You can also keep track of all of your benefits information on your computer. You need to keep track of the same documents that you would put into your binder. The difference is that you’ll be able to look at your documents on your screen, print out new copies, or even email information to people, such as a Work Incentive Consultant.

The main way you’ll have to put information into your computer is by scanning documents, such as your pay stubs and letters from benefits programs, and putting them into an organized Benefits and Work folder on your computer. In your Benefits and Work folder, you can create subfolders, called “Letters,” “Pay Stubs,” and “Notes,” where you’ll place all of your scanned files.

You can also create new documents using Microsoft Word or LibreOffice (a free program that’s very similar to Word) and type in notes, like when you sent in your letters and what you talked about over the phone with your DES social worker.

You can buy a scanner for about $50. Many printers also come with built-in scanners. You may also be able to use a scanner at an office supply store for a small fee or use one for free at some organizations, such as One-Stop Job Centers.

If You Are Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, it can be especially complicated to keep track of your income and report it to benefits agencies. Keeping good business records is just as important as keeping track of your benefits.

Make sure you speak with the agency you are reporting to so you can learn exactly how you should report your self-employment income and keep receipts for any work-related expenses that you may want to claim. Keep the receipts even if someone else paid for the expense. Also, keep records of any hours worked by volunteers or unpaid help you get from others.

You also must make sure to keep copies of your tax return in your Work and Benefits Binder so that you’ll have them ready and you can show your benefits provider how much you earned last year with your business.

Benefits Planning Query (BPQY)

If you’re on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you can get a great 2-page overview of your benefits situation from Social Security that you can add to your Benefits and Work Binder. This 2-page overview is called a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY).

The BPQY will tell you about your disability cash benefits, health insurance, scheduled Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs), and work history.

You can request a BPQY at a local Social Security office or by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY). If the representative is not familiar with the BPQY, you may need to talk to a supervisor to request your BPQY.

Social Security also has a manual that explains more about the BPQY.

Learn more