The Ticket to Work Program was created in 1999 as a way to assist Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries find work and achieve financial independence without relying on disability benefits permanently. The program is free and voluntary for those interested in examining their employment options.
If you are eligible for the program, you can participate by signing up with an approved service provider of your choice. Approved service providers can be an Employment Network (EN) or a State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency. The EN or VR you decide to work with will then coordinate and provide the services that you need to obtain and maintain employment. These services include, but are not limited to, career counseling, education, training, benefits counseling, job placement, vocational rehabilitation, and ongoing support.
If you are currently receiving SSDI or SSI benefits, you are automatically eligible for the Ticket to Work Program, unless your disability is so severe that you would not benefit from participating. In return for the services you receive, you are expected to complete training or educational requirements or work at a specified earnings level within certain timeframes.
Once you have chosen where to assign your “ticket” (note: you did not need to have an actual paper ticket to participate with a chosen EN or VR), you begin a seven-year program that involves education, job training, and work. For the first six years, you need to make timely progress on the above requirements. During this time, you will continue to receive your regular monthly benefit payments, you can continue to receive the health insurance benefits you are entitled to receive (either Medicare or Medicaid), and you will be protected from receiving a medical Continuing Disability Review (CDR).
Social Security will pay the employer or organization you decide to work with once you have achieved these milestones and outcomes that are associated with your earnings and work.
During the seventh year, you must complete six months of work at the level of substantial gainful activity (SGA), during which you will not receive your regular SSDI or SSI benefits. In the event that you continue working beyond this period and your disability benefits end, but later on your disability makes it impossible to continue working, you can resume getting disability benefits without having to file another claim and going through the process all over again.
You can use your ticket to obtain services with the goal of eventually becoming self-employed, but you should know that some ENs will refuse to accept your ticket if that is the case.
There is no penalty for not participating in the Ticket to Work Program. But SSDI or SSI beneficiaries who are interested in participating can call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1.866.968.7842 (TTY 1.866.833.2967) and verify their eligibility.