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Government Programs Help Disabled Individuals Return to the Workforce

Many people currently receiving SSI or SSDI disability benefits from the Social Security Administration would go back to work if they could find a job that could accommodate their disability. In 1999, Congress passed legislation designed to aid these job seekers in returning to work by establishing the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999.

The Act is intended to do several things. First, it tries to remove barriers that prevent the disabled from returning to work, such as the fear of losing health care coverage provided by Social Security. Second, it helps the disability benefits recipient find employment and support services that help with employment (such as vocational rehabilitation). Working with employers, health care providers, and others, Ticket to Work (TTW) hopes to help disability recipients improve their quality of life through gainful employment. The long term goal is to provide disability recipients with enough income so that they no longer need to rely on cash benefits from SSDI or SSI. The program is entirely voluntary.

TTW gives its participants tickets that can be redeemed for services and jobs from the Employment Networks. An Employment Network is a local or state entity (either private or public) that contracts with the SSA to provide services to disability benefits recipients. The services provided are intended to prepare disability benefits recipients for employment (such as vocational rehabilitation services) and to place them in jobs once they have been trained. The Employment Network can provide these services directly, or it can contract with other individuals or businesses to provide the services under its supervision.

Each disability benefit recipient chooses the Employment Network he or she wishes to use based on the Employment Networks available in the area and on the services offered. Each Employment Network has the right to accept or decline the Ticket of the individual applying for services. The Employment Network’s staff works one on one with each ticket holder to design an individualized program to support that person’s work goals.

A wealth of information about TTW in each state can be found online. For example a Minnesota Employment Network website gives not only contact information, but also a list of job opportunities. At the website of one of California’s Employment Networks, topics include information for the newly diagnosed, work-force re-entry, and the availability of income support for the disabled. Many Employment Networks partner with local private and public rehabilitation services. Kentucky’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services includes information about TTW as part of its overall services package. Other agencies, such as Easter Seals in North Texas, also participate as Employment Networks.

To find a list of providers in your area, visit Social Security’s Employment Network Directory at http://www.yourtickettowork.com/endir, and simply enter your zip code or your city and state. A list of Employment Networks will appear, detailing contact information, services provided, and disabilities served.

For those who are disabled, have been laid off or otherwise have lost their jobs, and who want to leave the SSDI or SSI disability rolls, Ticket to Work provides one option for re-entering the workforce.