What is the Ticket to Work Program? Your Questions Answered

The information in this article is current as of November 9, 2021.

What if you could still work while receiving Social Security benefits?

The Ticket To Work program is an excellent option for those receiving SSDI or SSI benefits who still want to work and earn extra money.

So, what is the Ticket To Work program, and what can it possibly do for you? Keep reading to discover some answers!

What Is the Ticket To Work Program?

Our guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the Ticket To Work program. So let’s start with the obvious question: what is the Ticket To Work Program, exactly?

In short, this is a program designed to help those receiving SSDI or SSI benefits to receiving employment services. In other words, you would be able to get a job without losing your existing benefits.

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of paperwork involved before you can become eligible. And there are limits on the nature of the work you can perform and even how long you can work each month. But this program is arguably the best bet for those who already receive these benefits and want to bring in some additional money. 

Why Does This Program Exist?

Now you know more about how the Ticket To Work program functions. But this leads to another critical question: why was this program created in the first place?

The general goal of this program is to increase the financial independence of those who take part in it. When you receive SSDI or SSI benefits, it is easy to feel helpless because you rely so much on those funds. By reducing how much you rely on these other programs, Ticket To Work can promote a stronger sense of independence and confidence while making it easier to afford housing and other essentials.

Who Is Eligible?

At this point, the program may sound a little too good to be true. So if you find yourself asking, “what’s the catch,” the answer mostly comes down to who is eligible for Ticket To Work and who is not.

The primary eligibility requirement is to receive SSDI or SSI benefits and be between 18 and 64. There are no real exceptions for those who do not meet these eligibility requirements.

While this is not an official requirement, you may want to carefully consider whether it makes sense for you to return to the workforce. Of course, it’s great to earn money and even better to earn a boost in your confidence and independence, but the last thing you want to do is cause yourself lasting injury by working too hard and aggravating any existing conditions. Either way, you are the only person who can decide if a return to work step is right for you.

Next, while this doesn’t affect your eligibility, there is one more “catch” you should be are of, and that is that you will need to work with an employment network.

The Role of Employment Networks

At first, you might envision qualifying for the Ticket To Work program and then finding work with whoever will hire you. However, the truth of this matter is a little more complicated.

The Social Security Administration works with different individuals, organizations, and entities known as “Employment Networks.” Other ENs include various State Vocational Rehabilitation Department of Labor American Job Centers.

The important thing is that these ENs are looking to hire those who currently receive SSDI and SSI benefits. And once you qualify for the program and have your ticket, you can find gainful employment on top of receiving current benefits.

Is This Different From Work Incentives Planning & Assistance?

It’s an open secret that all of these government programs can be pretty confusing, especially when they have similar names or otherwise overlap. And that is why it’s easy to confuse the Ticket To Work program with the Work Incentives Planning & Assistance program.

What, then, is the primary difference between these programs? Generally speaking, Work Incentives Planning & Assistance is an advisory program that helps you learn more about work incentives and the pros and cons of returning to the workforce. On the other hand, the Ticket To Work program focuses more on helping you get a job that is suited to your skills and temperament while maintaining your benefits.

Another way of thinking of this is that Work Incentives Planning & Assistance helps you figure out whether you should get a job. And if you decide that you should, the Ticket To Work program helps make that happen.

What Types of Jobs Are Available Through Ticket To Work?

We have reviewed some of the eligibility restrictions of the Ticket To Work program. But now, you may be wondering if you will be limited to certain types of jobs once you qualify for the program.

Fortunately, those with a ticket can work any job they wish to with an EN. Like when you were first employed, you need to find a job that you are qualified to perform and an employer who wishes to hire you.

You are likely to be surprised at how many different kinds of jobs are available. There is something for everyone, and finding the right job can make a world of difference for your confidence and financial independence.

Will Working This Way Jeopardize My Benefits or Healthcare?

As you know, the world of SSDI and SSI benefits is filled with myths and half-truths. As a result, many are worried that making the wrong decision will put their benefits in jeopardy. Because of this, many who are interested in the Ticket To Work program are worried that signing up and getting a job via the Employment Network may mean they lose benefits and healthcare.

Let’s put that rumor to rest: working via the Ticket To Work program will not jeopardize your benefits or healthcare in any way. While seeking work outside of the Ticket To Work program may negatively affect your benefits, working within the program means that you are working with the SSA’s blessing.

Ultimately, the Ticket To Work program is an excellent way of having your cake and eating it, too. You can continue to receive the full range of SSDI, SSI, and healthcare benefits while bringing in extra money through employment.

Will My Working Hours Be Limited?

Whether you are just now learning about the Ticket To Work program or have recently been approved, you likely have the same question: “how much will I be able to work?” But the answer to that depends on your preferences, your employer, and the nature of your disability.

For example, the primary goal of this program is to help you achieve a greater degree of financial independence. In some cases, this may mean that you earn enough money each year that the SSA discontinues your benefits. This is not meant to be a negative thing: instead, it signifies that you have achieved true financial independence.

How does the SSA determine the threshold for financial independence? It all comes down to whether the amount you make each month is greater than the SSA’s “substantial gainful activity” level. In 2021, this is defined as making over $1,310 (or more than $2,190 if you are blind) per month.

Long story short? It’s possible to work enough to lose existing benefits, but it’s also possible to work with your EN and control your hours so that you can still receive the benefits you need. It’s a good idea to consult with the SSA, your doctor, and your EN to determine what works best for you.

Employment Flexibility

One of the best things about the Ticket To Work program is the sheer flexibility of your employment. In short, you can work as much or as little as you are comfortable with working, and the program will support your endeavors.

Most with a ticket work part-time, allowing them to balance benefits and a monthly salary. However, as outlined above, some make enough money to achieve financial independence and stop receiving benefits.

In some cases, those in the program use the resources available to start their own business and achieve financial independence that way. But, no matter how you want to return to work, this program can help you do so on your terms.

Get Started Today

Are you interested in the Ticket To Work program? If so, you can get the process started today.

The site above will help you navigate available ENs, and you can take the time to find one that meets both your needs and preferences. And to ease back into the workforce, you can take advantage of the unique training options that the SSA put together.

Remember: the more you learn about the program now, the easier it will be to get everything started!

Now you have an answer to the question, “what is the Ticket To Work program?” But do you know where to find more financial assistance when you need it?

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