Career Connection Series: A Closer Look at the Ticket to Work Program

Can you explain how the Ticket to Work program works? And what services a person with a disability would have to go through to find a job.

My Employment Options For Job Seekers with Disabilities and Other Challenges

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President of Employment Options Inc.

If you are a person with a disability that receives benefits through the Social Security Administration and wants to work, you are in luck. Not only are free job placement services available to you through the Ticket to Work program, but employers are eager to hire through this program to create a more diversified staff and receive tax credit incentives. Many employers are hiring for seasonal jobs right now to handle the holiday rush!

What is The Ticket to Work program? This is a voluntary program that is designed to let a person with a disability try to return to the workforce, without sacrificing their benefits. If you are between the ages of 18 and 64 and receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you are automatically eligible to participate in the Ticket to Work program.

For many beneficiaries, returning to work can be intimidating because they are afraid of losing their cash and medical benefits. They fear that if they get off their benefits, they will not be able to get back on them or will only be re-instated after mounds of paperwork and a long delay. The program guidelines address these understandable concerns by providing several transitional stages of the program that include a Trial Work Period, a guarantee of Continuation of Medicare Coverage, an Extended Period of Eligibility and the Expedited Reinstatement period.

The Trial Work Period is exactly that. Every person who receives SSDI benefits qualifies for a trial work period of nine months that allows you to try to work while continuing to receive full cash and medical benefits. No matter how much money you earn through a job, you will still receive full Medicare and cash benefits during the Trial Work Period, just as before.

A great benefit to the program is that Medicare coverage also continues for 8 ½ years after the trial work period, for a small premium. The second transitional period is called an Extended Period of Eligibility which helps ease you into financial independence. This means that for 36 months after the trial work period is over, you do not have to file a new Social Security application, if you become unable or unwilling to work.

It is important to note that Ticket to Work is a long-term retention based program. In the third phase, the ticket-holder enters what is called the Expedited Reinstatement period. While the person ‘technically’ needs to reapply for Social Security benefits, it is their Social Security office that will handle the paperwork.

For Supplemental Security Income recipients (SSI), the rules are a little different. SSI recipients do not benefit from a trial work period, but rather, there are work incentives in place to help with the transition back into the workforce. To learn more about how your benefits will be affected when returning to work, it is best to contact your Local Work Incentive Planning and Assistance office (WIPA). You can also attend a WISE event (many of which are now held virtually and can be attended from the comfort of your home).

Now that you understand how the program really protects beneficiaries who want to return to the workforce, let’s look at the process of actually getting back to work.

Did you know that now is one of the very best times for people receiving disability benefits to go back to work? Why? Because the Ticket to Work program provides free job placement assistance to beneficiaries and a federal tax credit for employers hiring through the program, and technology has opened the door to many more opportunities for people with disabilities to work at home.

If you are in the Ticket to Work program and ready to start working, the first thing to do is to find a provider. You can visit the Ticket to Work website, which is the clearinghouse for all Social Security Certified Employment Networks and State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies. You must “assign” your Ticket to the agency or to an Employment Network (EN) in order to start receiving job placement assistance. Assigning a ticket is nothing more than registering with a provider. If for any reason you are not satisfied with an agency’s services, you can change providers.

While EN’s vary in approach, most will assess skills and abilities, prepare resumes, coach you before job interviews, guide you through the return to work transition and even help with job promotions. In some cases, EN’s have established relationships with employers who seek to hire through the program.

Ticketholders can return to work part-time initially and then work their way up to full-time. If you feel well enough, you can start full-time and earn money to help pay off bills or participate in fun activities. You can choose to work-at-home or on-site in your local community. Working at home is often particularly suitable for people with disabilities because there is no commute or dress code and all the comforts and accommodations of home. Working outside the home can also be especially rewarding to those who want a more social dimension to their job.

One additional and important benefit to participating in Ticket to Work is that it exempts Ticketholders from a Medical Continuing Disability Review (CDR).

If you are ready, willing and able to return to work, the Ticket to Work program is an easy way to test the “employment waters.” In addition to extra income, most people who go back to work really enjoy doing something different with their time and feel better about themselves. This special Social Security Program for disability beneficiaries is truly your lucky ticket. No risk, lots of benefits and a whole new world of opportunity and income.

Paula Reuben Vieillet is the President of Employment Options Inc., a certified Social Security Administration Employment Network. She is a frequent consultant to SSA on the Ticket to Work Program and on the Board of Directors of the National Employment Network Association. Her company, which also has a Facebook fan page, Job of the Day on Twitter and website “pre-qualify form,” assists ticket-holders in all 50 states. She also has a loyal following of employers who consistently put aside job openings for her clients, because they have been so well screened for each job description. She recently published Employment Options: The Ultimate Resource for Job Seekers with Disabilities and Other Challenges, which is a culmination of her 20 years of experience as a Licensed Rehabilitation Counselor.  Her company website is

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