The ticket-to-work (TTW) is a voluntary based program designed to get individuals able to return to work on a trial basis. The program is for people aged 18 to 64 with a disability who are on monthly social security checks and want to go back to work while also not losing their disability benefits if it does not work.
A DI claimant can utilize the ticket-to-work program to get all the services and support they need to work by 'getting around their disabilities'. The TTW program allows access to employment opportunities, vocational rehabilitation and other related services.
Why is Ticket-to-Work good?
The Ticket to Work (TTW) program is not the same as the Trial Work Period (TWP) – While the TWP allows DI claimants to only work under substantial gainful income threshold, the TTW places minimal restrictions on the types of services and jobs that are allowed for the DI claimants to be taken up.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) started the TTW program in 2002 under the Ticket Act passed by the Congress. The Ticket Act allows the SSA to reform the TTW according to the needs and changing dynamics of the job environment. According to a report by the SSA, the TTW found out about one-half of the disability beneficiaries expressed interest in wanting to have an opportunity to get back to work.
Through the ticket to work program, a DI claimant's cash benefits are not immediately affected after returning to work. When going to work during the TWP during 36 months, if a claimant earns above substantial income, their disability payments are cut for that month in which the DI claimant's earnings exceed the income threshold. Similarly, if a disability claimant is receiving SSI benefits, if they earn above the income threshold, they get a cut of $1 in their disability benefits for every $2 earned through employment. However, the Ticket to Work program allows a claimant to return to work and earn without losing their disability benefits.
Who can help claimants better develop the Ticket-to-Work program?
When a claimant takes part in the ticket to work program, it allows them to get help in finding a job, vocational rehabilitation, or other support through the employment networks. Employment networks are designed to help DI claimants seeking employment through the TWP find and keep jobs.
Employment Networks (EN)
Employment networks and state vocational rehabilitation agencies provide these services. These networks include private organizations and government agencies that have agreed to work with Social Security. They provide employment services and other support to beneficiaries with disabilities.
DI claimants can seek help from any employment network agency to see if the services and support than the EN offers is right for them. However, the claimant and the EN must work together and develop a plan that describes the claimant's employment goals and outlines the services and support the corresponding EN agency will provide to the claimant to achieve the goal. The claimants are free to talk with as many ENs as they wish to find out what ultimately works for them in terms of employment goals or rehabilitation opportunities. However, once a DI claimant has decided, they have to choose one EN and assign a ticket to them. If a claimant has assigned a ticket to an EN and wants to change their mind later, they can then un-assign the ticket from that EN and re-assign to another EN.
Another advantage of the TWP is if a claimant wants to go to work through receiving services from an EN as discusses above, the Social Security Administration will consider them as still eligible for the continued disability benefits and the claimant will not have to go through a medical Continued Disability Review (CDR).
State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies
Some claimants require more significant types of services to be able to return to work for the first time – the state vocational rehabilitation agencies are more suitable for such claimants. These VR agencies can help DI claimants get back to work under special circumstances, and when the need for VR agencies has ended, the VR agencies may help claimants find suitable EN agencies for significant work to find employment which pays more. When a claimant chooses to receive services from a state VR agency, the SSA will also consider them as still eligible for continued disability benefits and will not review them for CDR.
Seeking help for TTW?
While a claimant can choose their own EN agency or VR agency to seek employment and rehabilitation opportunities, the whole process can be difficult to navigate for a person. Before you choose an employment network, carefully choose the one you think can best help you chose your employment goal. Also, you can choose to consult our social security disability attorneys to help you through the whole process.