Ticket to Work is Social Security's program to encourage disability recipients to return to work. Ticket to Work expands the vocational services available to people on SSDI and SSI and provides additional protections to people's disability benefits as incentives for them to attempt to return to work. Ticket to Work is strictly a voluntary program; failure to participate will not threaten your benefits.
Under the Ticket to Work program, vocational services, nonprofits, and other entities become employment networks (ENs). (They do this by entering into contracts with Maximus, the corporation that administers the employment network program.)
What Employment Networks Do
Employment networks are available to provide vocational training, job readiness training, resumé writing classes, and other vocational services to SSDI and SSI beneficiaries. Some ENs specialize in providing services only to people with specific disabilities (such as developmental disabilities), while others serve all beneficiaries irrespective of the nature of their disabilities. Some ENs are businesses that rely on the EN system as a means to employ people with disabilities for their own businesses. These ENs are alternatives to the state departments of vocational rehabilitation.
For a list of ENs doing business in your area, see www.yourtickettowork.com.
Free Services Available With Ticket
SSDI and SSI beneficiaries may sign up for services with an EN, or with their state department of rehabilitation, by assigning their Ticket to Work to the EN or department of vocational rehabilitation. ENs, like the departments of rehabilitation, must provide services to beneficiaries free of charge. (If disability recipients who use an EN or department of rehablitation's services reduce or end their reliance on disability benefits by going back to work, the EN or department of rehabilitation eventually receive payments from Social Security beneficiaries).
Note that an EN may accept or reject you as a client, but your state department of rehabilitation has to must accept you as a Ticket to Work participant if you meet its disability criteria.ou can change ENs by withdrawing and reassigning your Ticket to Work, but changing ENs does not extend the time you have to complete your Ticket to Work program (see below).
Eligibility for Ticket to Work Program
Most SSDI and SSI beneficiaries are eligible for the Ticket to Work program; however, the program is not available to those who:
- are expected to improve medically but have not yet had a continuing disability review (but people who have received benefits for three years without a review become eligible for the Ticket to Work program)
- receive only state supplement SSI payments (who are not receiving any federal money)
- receive Section 301 payments while participating in a state department of rehabilitation program
- are getting continued benefits while appealing a medical cessation decision
- attain age 18 and continue to receive SSI benefits under the childhood disability standards
- receive temporary benefits under the expedited reinstatement rules, or
- receive advance payments for presumptive disability or presumptive blindness (just until the SSA grants disability benefits for the disability or blindness).
Duration of Ticket to Work Program
Once you assign your ticket to an EN or your state department of vocational rehabilitation, you begin a seven-year program of education, job training, and work. Timely progress requirements are required during the first six years, but vary depending on whether you are a student during those years (work requirements apply if you are not a student). During the seventh year, you must complete six months of work at the SGA level AND receive no SSDI or SSI benefits due to work during those six months.
Suspension of Continuing Disability Reviews
While you are pursuing a Ticket to Work program and meeting your timely progress requirements, Social Security cannot initiate a continuing disability review (known as a CDR, a review to determine whether your medical condition has improved). But Social Security can complete any review that begins before you assign your Ticket to Work. If you fail to meet your timely progress requirements, you once again become subject to continuing disability reviews.
Will Your Disability Benefits Be Reduced or Stopped?
Unfortunately, even though the Ticket to Work program doesn't do away with the trial work protections of SSDI or the PASS protections of SSI, many disability recipients believe that using the Ticket to Work program would risk their entitlement to Social Security benefits, so not many people have taken advantage of the program.
Other Work Incentives
In addition to creating the Ticket to Work program, the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act provided additional work incentives by:
- enacting the expedited reinstatement provisions
- encouraging states to make Medicaid available to people with disabilities who are working and earning up to 250% of the federal poverty level
- extending the period during which SSDI beneficiaries may receive continuing Medicare after returning to work at the SGA level
- authorizing payments to state Protection and Advocacy agencies for providing services to SSDI/SSI beneficiaries who return to work, and
- authorizing grants for work incentives planning and assistance.