By Paula Morgan
For many individuals, chronic pain from illness or serious injury can make life a struggle. Fortunately, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be a financial relief if you have a qualifying work history and meet Social Security’s disability requirements.
Along with vital income from SSDI, this federal insurance program comes with a number of other benefits. In the long term, one component is Social Security’s Ticket To Work program that helps beneficiaries who want to re-enter the workforce if they are medically able to return to work. This free voluntary program provides access to employment for SSDI beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 64. It also gives SSDI recipients a chance to be employed without jeopardizing their Medicare or disability benefits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees Ticket to Work and contracts Social Security-approved Employment Networks (EN) to offer personalized support and career development services, such as career counseling, interview preparation, job placement and other assistance.
The Ticket to Work program provides several incentives to help with the transition back to work:
- A Trial Work Period allows you to test your ability to work for nonconsecutive nine months without losing your SSDI benefits. During this time, you are eligible to earn as much as possible while still receiving monthly SSDI income. (After the trial period, the normal SSDI earnings limits will apply, but if you are still disabled, you can continue to receive Medicare for more than seven years after the nine-month Trial Work Period.)
- By participating in the Ticket to Work program, you are exempt from full medical Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) that are required for all SSDI recipients, if you are making timely progress towards your vocational or employment goals.
- Expedited Reinstatement allows you to request that your benefits be reinstated without having to complete a new SSDI application if you are no longer able to continue working because of your medical condition. While the SSA determines your benefits reinstatement, you are eligible to receive temporary benefits for up to six months.
Once you and your healthcare provider determine that you can potentially work again, it can be helpful to visit the Ticket to Work website and learn more about the program. You can consult an attorney who specializes in social security disability law or choose an EN from a Social Security-approved list to help you navigate the program, complete the necessary paperwork, and set up an individual work plan.
Returning to work after a long absence can be challenging. From updating your résumé to job-searching to filling out those online applications, the steps to working again may feel like a full-time job. Fortunately, EN can help for free, providing you with a wide range of services and one-on-one guidance so you can solely focus on your work and your well-being.
Paula Morgan, a Return to Work Case Manager for Allsup Employment Services (AES), has 21 years of public and private experience helping people navigate Social Security Administration (SSA) disability programs. She works with former workers with disabilities who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to help them navigate the SSA’s Ticket to Work (TTW) program. This involves helping them to access free and valuable benefits when they return to work through the TTW program.