Social Security Administration: What Is the Ticket to Work Program?

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Americans who receive Social Security disability benefits and want to work have a variety of resources available through the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program. Those who qualify will work with service providers to receive support and services that can help you find employment.

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The program is free and voluntary. It’s a good fit if you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and want to improve your earning potential. The idea is to help you prepare for work, find a job and succeed at it.

Once you enter the program, you’ll be put in touch with service providers — either Employment Networks (EN) or your state’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency — which will then offer career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, job placement, training and other services.

ENs are private or public organizations that might be based locally, statewide or regionally. Depending on the specific organization, you will work with an EN in person, over the phone or virtually. ENs also provide long-term support to help you find, keep and advance in a job.

If you end up working with an EN, you’ll both come up with an Individual Work Plan (IWP). Once that’s done, you’ll sign the IWP and assign your Work Ticket to that EN for the duration of your services.

VR agencies typically work with people who require more involved services to return to work or find work for the first time. In some states, this might include intensive job training, education (including college courses) and medical/rehab services and equipment. You can also get career counseling, job placement and other services with a VR agency.

If you want to receive services from your state VR agency, you will need to complete an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). After you sign the IPE, your Work Ticket will go into effect with the VR.

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The SSA’s Work Ticket program also includes Work Incentives Planning & Assistance (WIPA) projects involving organizations that are familiar with programs in your community. These organizations are authorized by the SSA to provide free benefits counseling to eligible Social Security disability beneficiaries to help you make informed choices about work.

Also available are Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) organizations that aim to remove barriers to successful employment and help you understand your rights regarding conditions of employment.

In all cases, you’ll be advised on how taking part in the Ticket to Work program might affect your Social Security, SSDI and SSI benefits.

In terms of eligibility, the program is available to people ages 18 through 64 who receive SSDI and/or SSI benefits because of their disability. You can learn about your eligibility status by calling the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

Once you have verified your eligibility, a customer service rep will explain how the program works and answer any questions or concerns you might have. They will also offer to send you a list of service providers. Alternatively, you can use the “Find Help” tool on Ticket to Work website to get a customized list of providers.

For more information on how to sign up and find service providers, visit the SSA’s Ticket to Work Fact Sheet. You can learn more about service providers by visiting the Service Provider Outreach Toolkit.

Additional help is available through Area Work Incentive Coordinators, who are Social Security employees that specialize in the SSA’s Work Incentives and employment support programs. Each AWIC serves a specific geographic area. To find a list of regional contacts, visit the AWIC Regional Contacts page.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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