2022 Award recipients

The recipients of 2022's awards are:

Susan M. Daniels Award:
Picture of Charles Killen
2022 Recipient - Charles Killen

Charles was recently selected for a Management Analyst position with the Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support (ORDES) after serving as part of the Area 2 Area Work Incentives Coordinator (AWIC) team. Prior to realignment, Charles was the AWIC for former Area 8. He has held the AWIC position since it was created in 2003, is the recipient of an ACOSS Team Award for his work on the Work Smart Programming team, and served on both the ORDES and OEST teams through the skills connect program. As an Area 2 AWIC, Charles assisted and provided e-Work training throughout Illinois and Wisconsin. Mr. Killen also collaborated at the national level as part of the e-Work Replacement Product team. As an AWIC, Charles worked directly with the Agency’s community partners supporting return-to-work initiatives. Prior to his service as an AWIC, he served as a generalist Customer Service Representative in the Pekin and Peoria IL, and Southwest Suburban IL, offices. While in Peoria, he was awarded a Regional Commissioners Communications award. 

Since expanding our coverage area from all 99 counties of Iowa to include 34 counties in northwest Illinois starting July 2021, the DRI WIPA team has had the pleasure of working with Charles in support of beneficiaries. Charles understands the time sensitive nature of benefits planning for the clients we serve and is dedicated to an efficient turnaround time for not only Benefits Planning Querys (BPQYs) but clarifications on complex and at times confusing situations. Charles often sends us BPQYs and other necessary information within the same day as our requests - sometimes even within the hour! Through his years of experience, Charles has amassed vast knowledge and understanding of Social Security Administration (SSA) systems and regulations. He will take the time to clearly explain complicated situations and provide us with guidance to help the beneficiaries with their next and best courses of action. Charles also is quick to update the WIPA team on system-wide issues in advance of us experiencing them. For example, Charles notified us of the country-wide problem with Trial Work Period information on BPQYs to ensure we were providing accurate benefits support to our clients. 

Charles understands the importance of benefits planning services for SSA beneficiaries and the partnership between AWICs and Community Work Incentives Coordinators (CWICs). Due to his commitment to benefits planning and work incentives, Charles has made a difference in the lives of countless beneficiaries. While the DRI WIPA team is sad to lose a valuable resource and collaborator, we are excited to know that he will be helping to improve SSA policies and procedures within the organization on a system-wide scale. Please accept our nomination for Charles Killen due to the outstanding service he has provided throughout the course of his career. 

Thomas P. Golden Award
Picture of Connie Ferrell holding a dog
2022 Recipient - Connie Ferrell

Connie spent the last 5 years of her career as the Master trainer for the National Training Center run by Virginia Commonwealth University.  She personally trained and supported hundreds of individuals who worked as benefits planners or work incentives specialists over a 30+ period of time.  She was regularly called upon to assist with demonstration projects such as BOND or POD, providing training and supporting the work incentives counselors who provided direct service to Social Security beneficiaries.

Connie presented to the Ticket to Work committee as an expert in developing the field of work incentives specialists.  She was a member of the Social Security Region V Work Incentives Advisory Committee as a representative from her state of Indiana.  She advocated within her state for changes in policy to support community employment for people with disabilities.

Connie has for many years educated state vocational rehabilitation counselors on the benefits of community employment for individuals with severe disabilities, and trained on Social Security benefits and work incentives as incentive to work.  Prior to her work in benefits and work incentives counseling, Connie worked in the Supported Employment arena.

I am writing this letter of support for the nomination of Ms. Connie Ferrell for the Thomas P. Golden Distinguished Service Award for 2022.  I have known and worked with Connie since 2000, when the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act was signed, the BPAO/WIPA initiative was created by Social Security, and Connie and I were both hired on as Technical Assistance Specialists for the Regional Training Center run by Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute, and then later worked together for VCU’s National Training and Data Center until her retirement in 2021.  It is not possible to describe all of Connie’s work and accomplishments over the past 45+ years.  I can say, having worked closely with her, that she was the premier trainer for work incentives specialists.  All other trainers were inspired by her passion for educating people on benefits and work incentives, and we marveled at the ease with which she shared her knowledge and made people feel comfortable with the fact that it would take time to learn the policies, rules and regulations that govern the programs.
Please know that the information I put on the nomination form about Connie’s leadership and advocacy activities is likely a small percentage of what she was actually involved in over the years.  If you need more information, I can get her resume/vitae for more detail.
Thank you for your consideration of my friend and colleague, Connie Ferrell, for this award.  I think it would mean a great deal to Connie, who was not only a colleague, but a very close friend of Thomas Golden’s.