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Ticket to Work

Ticket to Work is a voluntary work incentive program offered by the Social Security Administration to those receiving Social Security Disability benefits. Ticket to Work was created by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. This Act was intended to remove barriers that keep Social Security Disability recipients from attempting to return to work, such as fear of losing health care coverage or being unable to resume benefits if a job does not work out.

Through the program, Social Security Disability recipients are offered free job training and employment referrals, among other benefits. The training, referrals, and other benefits come either from an employment network or from a vocational rehabilitation agency. Employment networks and vocational rehabilitation agencies (referred to as a “provider” below) must be approved by the SSA to participate in the program.

If a person elects to enter the program, he or she decides on a provider and gives the provider his or her “ticket.” If the provider accepts the ticket, the provider then works with the Social Security Disability recipient to make an individualized plan for employment that sets out the type of work the person will train for and also states what services the provider will furnish.

After the trial period (during which full Social Security Disability benefits are paid) and the person has secured a job with substantial earnings, Social Security Disability benefits are usually terminated. The SSA states that if the person subsequently loses his or her job, benefits, including Medicare or Medicaid, will be resumed quickly. No new application needs to be filed if job loss occurs within five months after disability benefits have stopped. Temporary benefits are often available for up to six months while the person’s case is reviewed. SSI payments are also reduced and then finally eliminated as the person’s earnings increase. If the person makes timely progress reports regarding his or her return to work plan, no medical reviews are required.

Medicare benefits continue for a number of years after the person returns to work, and some states either continue Medicare coverage or allow the person to purchase Medicare coverage from the state.