Eligibility Worker Job Description
Eligibility workers are responsible for helping individuals in need of social services secure the services they need. They often report to senior social workers or therapists, and they are heavily employed by state governments and community nonprofits. Eligibility workers should enjoy helping others, especially since most of their clients will consist of lower-income and older individuals from underrepresented groups. Most eligibility workers work full-time, but some are employed in part-time roles.
Eligibility Worker Duties and Responsibilities
The daily tasks and duties an eligibility worker carries out will depend on their place of employment and the years of experience they have. However, the vast majority of eligibility workers will have to perform the following core tasks:
Determine Eligibility for Social Services and Benefits
As the name of their profession suggests, eligibility workers help clients find out if they are eligible for financial assistance provided by the government or nonprofit entities. They often help individuals secure financial assistance for housing, medical care, education, food, and everyday living expenses.
Assist Social Workers or Psychologists
Eligibility workers often work under the supervision of social workers and psychologists. They may assist these individuals in a variety of ways. Normal duties include filing paperwork, contacting clients, sending emails, and answering phone calls.
Obtaining financial assistance from the government can be difficult, and eligibility workers may need to explain the application process to their clients. If they are unable to verify the eligibility of a client, they may help them obtain services from alternative providers.
Coordinating services is a major part of the job for most eligibility workers. They act as intermediaries for the government or nonprofits, often conveying information to applicants as it arrives. They may reach out to clients if the government needs additional information to process an application or if current information needs updating.
Meet with Clients
Eligibility workers may need to meet directly with clients in their homes. Many clients are unable to travel or walk due to physical or mental disabilities, and social service agencies often dispatch eligibility workers to private homes. They may also visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and community centers.
Eligibility Worker Skills and Qualifications
Individuals who are compassionate and dedicated to community service may want to consider becoming eligibility workers. Licensing and educational requirements will vary from employer to employer, but in general, eligibility workers should have at least a high school diploma. Agencies also look for the following skills and qualifications in eligibility workers:
- Knowledge of social services – an eligibility worker must possess in-depth knowledge of the social services system. They should know how to explain these services to others outside of their profession and how to navigate the application process. Eligibility professionals must also know what services are available in their particular state, county, or city
- Basic computer proficiency – eligibility workers use computers to perform a variety of day-to-day tasks. They are required to input client data into online systems or databases, and they may need to update this data periodically. Successful workers should also know how to send emails, browse the Internet, and install and uninstall software
- Administrative experience – since they are often required to assist social workers and therapists, eligibility workers should know how to provide excellent administrative support to others
- Interpersonal skills – individuals in this profession will need to be extremely sensitive to the mental and emotional needs of others. They often work with ill and elderly individuals, as well as underserved populations. They should understand the needs of these communities extensively and demonstrate compassion when addressing their concerns
- Attention to detail – eligibility workers often fill out applications for assistance on behalf of their clients, and a simple data entry mistake can result in a denial of benefits
Eligibility Worker Education and Training
The type of education a person needs to become an eligibility worker depends on the agency they work for. In general, most agencies require eligibility workers to have at least a high school diploma or GED. A small minority of agencies and businesses require their employees to have an associate’s degree in social work or a behavioral science. During their studies, these students often take courses in psychology, sociology, and human services. The vast majority of eligibility workers will receive on-the-job training temporarily until they are able to work on their own.
Eligibility Worker Salary and Outlook
Eligibility workers are classified as social and human services assistants by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS, the median annual salary for eligibility workers was $33,120 in 2017. Those with earnings in the top 10th percentile earned more than $53,380 yearly, while those in the lowest 10th percentile earned less than $21,480 on a yearly basis. Eligibility workers employed full-time often gain access to company benefits such as health insurance, retirement, and vacation time.
The BLS predicts the job market for eligibility workers will increase by 16 percent between 2016 and 2026. This figure is significantly higher than the national average of seven percent for all jobs. As baby boomers age and need access to social services, the government and nonprofit agencies will need additional workers in this field. The number will also increase as the legal system continues the trend of sending many drug offenders to rehab instead of prison.
Ready to become an eligibility worker? Use the following resources to learn more about the field of eligibility work.
National Association of Social Workers (NASW) – as its name implies, the NASW strives to represent and provide educational resources for social workers and those who work in the human services field. The association also holds events and other conferences for members and those interested in social issues.
SAGE Guide to Social Work Careers: Your Journey to Advocacy – written by Melissa Bird, Your Journey to Advocacy is a must-have for anyone considering the field of social work. It is a comprehensive career guide that provides information about the various career opportunities available in the industry. It is geared to towards students enrolled in an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree program.
The A-to-Z Self-Care Handbook for Social Workers and Other Helping Professionals – eligibility workers often encounter stressful situations in their day-to-day work, as do most people who work in the field of social work. This book knows that, and by providing helpful and practical tips for relaxation and stress-reduction, it helps eligibility workers manage the emotions they may be feeling on a regular basis. Written by Erlene Grise-Owens, the book uses an A to Z approach to teach those in the social work industry how to avoid burnout.
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