The Ticket to Work Program for Disability and SSI Recipients
Most people who are receiving disability benefits do not wish to be in the situation they are in. Many disability and SSI recipients like to work and want to go back to work for a number of reasons, such as not receiving enough benefits to cover the rent, utility bills, food costs, etc. SSA’s program, Ticket to Work, can help those individuals do just that.
How the Ticket to Work Program Works
Introduced in 2001, and improved upon in 2008, the Ticket to Work Program allows disability and SSI recipients to re-enter the work force to obtain a good job, and possibly a new career, without jeopardizing their benefits. The program is free and voluntary for any disability and SSI recipients who wish to return to work, ages 18 to 64. So how does it work? SSA connects the disability recipient with either the Employment Network (EN) or his or her local Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR).
Employment Network (EN) Agencies
EN agencies are under contract with SSA to work closely with individuals interested in going back to work. They will help the disability beneficiary identify their career goals and form a plan that highlights these goals, as well as what the agency will do to help that person achieve them. They provide career counseling, job placement, and ongoing support services. There are usually several different agencies for the beneficiary to choose from, and they have the right to talk to as many EN agencies as they wish before deciding to assign their ticket to the agency they want to work with. The beneficiary may also change his ticket to a different agency at any time. The agency MAXIMUS is currently contracted to serve as the Operations Support Manager of EN. For more information, call (866)968-7842.
Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR)
The Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR) is a state agency. If accepted into the program, the beneficiary works with BVR to form a plan which helps that person get ready to go back to work. Once the plan’s goals are met, the individual is then referred to EN or a similar agency for job placement and continued support. Most major cities have a BVR agency. To find the BVR agency nearest to you, visit https://choosework.ssa.gov/findhelp/
Compensation for Ticket to Work Services
Once the beneficiary has completed a program either through EN or BVR and achieves work and earnings goals set forth in their plan, SSA pays the provider for their services. Rather than being fees for services, however, these payments are compensation for assisting the beneficiaries in obtaining their goals.
Benefits of Participating in Ticket to Work
Medical Reviews and Disability Status
While participating in Ticket to Work, the disability recipient is not subject to any medical reviews during that time to determine whether or not the recipient is still disabled. They continue to receive their benefits until their employment income is above the applicable earnings limit for the Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance program. However, this also varies from individual to individual. This is partially because it is possible to subtract certain amounts from your gross earnings by taking advantage of Social Security Work Incentives. For more information regarding work incentives, please visit www.ssa.gov/redbook.
Impact on Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare and Medicaid are also not affected while a beneficiary is participating in Ticket to Work, as long as they are still receiving their cash benefits. Even after the beneficiary returns to work, it is possible to keep their insurance benefits. For Medicare, an individual may remain covered for up to 93 months after the Trial Work Period has ended. It is also possible to keep Medicare through Work Incentives. Medicaid can also be maintained through Work Incentives. An individual may also have the option of participating in a Medicaid Buy-In Program, depending on whether state in which the individual lives offers the program. This allows the individual to keep Medicaid by paying a monthly premium, provided that other requirements set by the state are met.
Reinstatement of Benefits through Expedited Reinstatement
Sometimes after people go back to work, they find their disabilities are still getting in the way and they have to stop work again. Instead of filing a new application, these individuals can request the reinstatement of benefits up to five years after going back to work. In the Work Incentives program, this is called Expedited Reinstatement. SSA will then pay the individual provisional benefits for up to six months while they determine whether or not that individual can get benefits again.
The Importance of Informed Decision-Making and Legal Counsel
The decision to go back to work can be tough for a disabled person. The pro’s and con’s must be weighed carefully and, if possible, discussed with an attorney who is well-versed in Social Security rules and regulations to determine whether it is the right choice.
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Written by Anna Westfall
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