Ticket to Work is a Social Security-led employment program designed to reduce or end benefit dependency for people with disabilities.
Ticket to Work provides training, career guidance, job referrals and other services to help people with disabilities enter or return to the job market and become more financially independent. It is open to most people ages 18 to 64 who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Participation is voluntary and free. Combined with other Social Security work incentives, you can continue to receive disability benefits and associated health care while transitioning to a permanent job.
Public and private workforce development organizations that partner with the Social Security Administration (SSA) provide Ticket to Work services and support. The program has two main types of providers:
- Work Networks (EN): Employers, non-profit organizations, government agencies, or combinations thereof that provide or coordinate services for Ticket to Work participants, including training, career counseling, job placement, and workplace support.
- Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (VR): State-level agencies that provide education, skills training, workplace housing, and other assistance to people who need more important services to enable them to work. Beneficiaries who complete a VR program can transfer to an EN to receive ongoing support.
As of April 2021, approximately 318,000 beneficiaries participated in Ticket to Work, according to the SSA, and more than 1.5 million people have attended the program since its launch in 2002.
If you are interested in Ticket to Work, call 866-968-7842, the toll-free Social Security Beneficiary Helpline for the program. An agent can provide information on how it works, answer questions, and send you a list of available service providers. You can also use the program’s online Find Help tool to locate and contact ENs and VRs in your area.
Once you’ve selected a provider — or, as Social Security puts it, you’ve assigned your “ticket” — work with them to set employment goals and develop a plan to achieve them. Social Security used to send paper tickets to participants, but the term is now symbolic and represents SSA’s agreement to pay your EN or VR for its services.
The ticket entitles you to a wide range of assistance in preparing, finding and keeping a job. It also requires you to take specific steps within a time frame set by Social Security to complete the education, training, or employment goals outlined in your plan.
As long as you are a Ticket to Work member and make progress toward your goals, you will not be subject to a medical permanent disability assessment, the periodic check that the SSA performs to determine if you still meet the medical criteria to qualify as incapacitated for work. to be considered.
A Ticket to Work program can last up to seven years. Social Security conducts an annual assessment to assess whether you are making timely progress toward your occupational goals. You don’t necessarily need to be kicked out of the program if you aren’t, but the SSA will continue to check your medical disability status.
An overview of the program can be found in the SSAs Your Ticket to Work brochure and detailed information on the Ticket to Work website, including articles, webinars, online tutorials and other resources to help you understand and use the program.
Effect on benefits
Because the SSA largely defines disability as an inability to do most work, it sets strict income limits for SSDI recipients. You’ll lose your benefits if you engage in what Social Security calls “significant gainful activity,” meaning you’ll be paying more than $1,310 a month in 2021, and $2,190 if you’re blind.
But Social Security also understands that returning to work after a period of disability is not an easy task and that some people may not succeed. So for SSDI beneficiaries, it has a trial period where you can test your job potential without losing benefits, no matter how much you earn.
The trial period covers nine months of work, which can be spread over five years. That means your benefits can last while you prepare for and engage in a new job for a while in Ticket to Work.
If you get stable work for pay above the substantial gainful activity limit, you will no longer get regular payments, but Social Security has provisions to resume benefits without reapplying if your income falls back below the limit or if your medical condition pushes you back for a longer period of time or permanently out of work.
You can also remain on Medicare, which most SSDI beneficiaries are entitled to, for at least 8 1/2 years after you return to work (including the nine months of your trial period), as long as your medical condition is still adequate to the social security conditions. disability definition — even if you stop receiving benefits because your earnings exceed the limit for substantially profitable activities.
Ticket to Work’s services include counseling to help you better understand how program participation and, ultimately, employment will affect your benefits and health care.