For individuals receiving social security disability insurance (SSDI) or supplemental security income (SSI), getting back into the workforce is sometimes an uphill battle. They may have been unable to work (or unable to work as much as they would like) for an extended period and could benefit greatly from employment services such as training, vocational rehabilitation, career counseling, job placement, or other assistance that would help to make the transition back into the workforce easier.
That’s the premise behind the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program. It’s meant to enable those who have been on SSDI or SSI to have a way to transition back to working again once they’re able to do so. Obviously, this is designed to be a win-win: the individuals are given assistance to return to earning a regular wage, employers get newly-trained new hires, and everyone benefits. This can be a way for those on SSDI or SSI to improve their financial situation and self-sufficiency. Over time, it may even be (but does not have to be) a way to transition from the SSDI or SSI benefit program, once the individual is earning enough on his or her own. The Ticket to Work program is a way to get assistance and explore options, and it does not impact the individual’s eligibility to continue receiving SSDI or SSI benefits. (As an added bonus, Social Security will not conduct a medical disability review on workers while they’re active in the Ticket to Work program.)
The Ticket to Work program, as the name implies, uses a “Ticket” that is sent to an eligible individual. The Ticket is essentially a certificate, and participation in the program is voluntary. For anyone with a Ticket (and even for eligible individuals without an official Ticket—more on that in a moment), it can be used to receive employment services. Anyone aged 18—65 and in one of the programs above is eligible. Approximately 75,000 new Ticket to Work packages are sent out monthly. (For those eligible and interested who have not yet received a Ticket as part of the program, they’re able to call the Ticket to Work helpline: 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY). There are also a lot of online resources available with the SSA.)
When individuals receive their Ticket, they’re able to opt whether to use it. There’s no penalty for choosing not to participate. If they do choose to use it, it can be used immediately or held on to for use at a later date. When they’re ready to get started, the individual simply calls the helpline to find out about Employment Networks in their area.
The Employment Network (EN) is where individuals receive their training or other employment services. Employment networks are made up of organizations that are approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to be administering these benefits. An EN could consist of individual companies or other organizations, or it could be a group of collaborating organizations providing various services. Employers and other organizations can volunteer to become part of an EN; the organizations involved get paid directly by the SSA for the services they provide. Individual employers are welcome to apply, and ENs often consist of employers, career agencies, schools, disability-related organizations, and more. Some states even use their state vocational rehabilitation agency as an EN.
When they receive their Ticket, they’re able to use it at any EN of their choosing, but can only be enrolled at one EN at a time. Staff within the chosen EN will help the person establish goals, and then the related service plan will be created.
If an individual does not have a Ticket but is eligible to participate, he or she can still do so. To get started without a Ticket, the person should simply call the helpline or contact an EN directly; the EN can confirm eligibility and get the process started.
For employers interested in becoming part of a local EN, you can contact the SSA to inquire. Call the Employment Network Service Branch at 866-584-5180 (TTY1-866-584-5181).