Contrary to popular belief, if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you may still have an opportunity to work. Under the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s Ticket to Work program, you can qualify for employment training services.
Anyone who is receiving SSI or SSDI benefits and is between the ages of 18 and 65 can qualify for this program. Participation in the program is completely voluntary; you are not required to participate. If you are eligible for the program, information will be on its way to you when your state begins participating. (If you were expected to medically improve when you were first awarded disability status, you must wait until after your first Continuing Disability Review (CDR) and have been determined disabled in order to participate.)
Upon receiving your Ticket to Work you may select an employment network, which is any agency or company which has agreed to coordinate services with the Social Security Administration (SSA) in providing training and vocational rehabilitation services. A list of employment networks in your area should be included in the information that comes with your Ticket to Work. If it is not, contact your local Social Security office. If at some point you become unhappy with the services you are receiving at your current employment network (EN), you may reassign your ticket to another one.
Once you have selected an EN, your next step will be to work with your EN to develop an individualized work plan, or IWP. This agreement just puts the terms on paper so that you and your EN know what to expect from each other. Depending on the nature of your disability, the time frame covered by your IWP may be several years.
The goal of the Ticket to Work program is to get you to a point where you can reduce or eliminate your dependence upon disability benefits. During the Ticket to Work period, you must be making progress toward having the ability to work, which is known as timely progress toward employment. During the first two years in the program, it will be required of you to actively take part in your employment plan. During the third year, you will be required to work for at least 3 months; during the fourth year, you will be required to work for at least 6 months.
From the date your Ticket to Work is first assigned to an EN, you will have five (5) years to complete the program. Your ticket ends when you are able to work enough that you no longer need to receive disability benefits. During your Ticket to Work period, you will not be subject to Continuing Disability Reviews as long as you are making timely progress toward employment. If you are not making timely progress toward employment, you will still be eligible for the program if the CDR determines that you are still disabled.
This is a lot of information to try to take in at one time, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of it here. Keep in mind that your participation in the Ticket to Work program is completely voluntary. If you choose to participate, you may very well soon be on your way to a life of independence.