Break down the benefits of the Ticket-to-Work program

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For people who have suffered from a debilitating injury or illness, the road to recovery can be lengthy and challenging. When it is time to get back to work, either out of want or need, the transition from full-time recreation to full-time employment can feel impossible and discourage people from trying.

The good news is that the Ticket-to-Work (TTW) program was designed with these challenges in mind. TTW is a voluntary program managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that connects people with free employment services to help them return to work.

Many people who need this help are not aware of the criteria and benefits of TTW. Understanding how TTW can facilitate their return to work is invaluable for people with disabilities as it could be the key to regaining control of their financial future.

At the beginning it is important to know who qualifies. Anyone who receives social security and disability insurance (SSDI) benefits or additional income support benefits (SSI) is eligible to participate in Ticket to Work. At Allsup, anyone eligible and willing to go back to work is encouraged to sign up for the program. In general, SSDI recipients are those who have worked for five of the past 10 years and who have a severe disability that prevents them from working. With medical stability or recovery, the situation can change – and then TTW is so valuable.

TTW offers many resources to help individuals prepare for work, find a job, or remain successful while at work. Those who choose to participate will have access to services such as career counseling, vocational rehabilitation and placement and training from authorized service providers such as an employment network (EN) or a state vocational rehabilitation agency (VR).

The most beneficial features of the program are the associated work incentives, which reduce the risk for social security beneficiaries to take the first step towards return to work. These work incentives allow people who receive SSDI or other benefits such as Medicaid or Medicare to keep them while they return to work. Should it become necessary during the transition for a person to quit their job or retire from working life, TTW ensures that the participants continue to receive their benefits.

A recent announcement could change the eligibility requirements for TTW and expand its reach to serve even more Americans with disabilities. In April, Senator Rob Portman announced the reintroduction of the Senior Care Act. Currently, the maximum qualifying age is 65, but most people who receive disability benefits and are therefore eligible for TTW will receive them until they reach full retirement age. This proposal would make return to work accessible and achievable for millions of people with disabilities regardless of their age, making it an even more valuable resource for those looking to return to work.

Last year’s focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact has made the decision to return to work significantly more difficult for people with disabilities, especially those with compromised immunity. However, as the public health situation continues to improve, it is imperative that all who are willing and able to return to work have the opportunity to do so.

The TTW program is an untapped benefit available to millions of Americans. However, the lack of knowledge about who is qualified and what value they offer prevents many people from getting back into working life. Demystifying the qualification criteria and benefits of this important program is a step in the right direction that will help people with disabilities find the support they need to achieve financial independence.


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