What is the “Ticket to Work” Program?
In some cases, you may be granted Social Security benefits because your disability keeps you from working any job that you’re currently qualified for. Many people on disability would like to earn more money but have never been trained for any job that they can physically do (for example, a former construction worker might be physically capable of an office job but need computer training). The Social Security administration offers a completely optional program known as the “Ticket to Work” Program to provide this training for people who want to return to work. If you receive SSD or SSI benefits and are between the ages of 18 and 65, you are eligible. Participation in the program will not interfere with your benefits.
How Does the Process Work?
You receive a Ticket in the mail. You take this Ticket to any Employment Network (EN) or State Vocational Rehabilitation agency (VR), and if you both agree to work together, the EN or VR will help you with job training, finding employers, information about work incentives, materials to send to prospective employers, and other tasks that will help you go to work. Participating in the Ticket to Work program means that you’re protected from a Continuing Disability Review based on your potential ability to work.
For Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries
If you receive SSD benefits, you have a “trial work period” of nine months (not consecutive) that allows you to test your ability to work without risking your benefits. Be sure to check how many months you have left of your trial work period before you begin. A month only counts if you earn over $720. After the trial work period ends, you will not receive benefits in months where you earn over $1000. For three years after the end of your trial work period, you can begin receiving benefits again if you stop earning $1000/month and you’re still disabled - this is called Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits, or EXR.
For Supplemental Security Income Beneficiaries
If you receive SSI benefits, working and earning money may affect the amount of your benefits. However, the Social Security administration will count less than one-half of your earnings against your benefit amount.
What About Medicare?
Assuming your disabling condition still meets the rules, you can keep your Medicare coverage for eight and a half years (counting your nine month trial work period) after you begin working.