Understanding the Social Security “Ticket to Work” Program for Those with Disabilities

By Kenton Koszdin Law Office on April 20, 2023 | In Social Security Disability

Understanding the Social Security “Ticket to Work” Program for Those with Disabilities

Qualifying for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits requires, in part, that the disabled person be unable to work to support him or herself. However, it doesn’t mean that the person is unable to work at all. Even after you have qualified for disability benefits, you may be able to work to earn traditional income and keep your skills sharp. The Social Security Administration’s “Ticket to Work” program is designed to help those with disabilities find useful work.
In other words, if you have suffered a disability and will be or are receiving disability benefits, you may also be able to engage in gainful employment that will help supplement your disability income without jeopardizing it.
To learn how disability and wages work with the Social Security work program known as the Ticket to Work program, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation and speak with a Social Security Disability Lawyer.

What Is the Social Security Ticket to Work Program?

What is ticket to work? The Ticket to Work program is a voluntary and free program designed to help disabled individuals who receive Social Security Disability benefits work toward achieving financial independence.

SSDI Ticket to Work Eligibility

You are qualified for the Ticket to Work program if you are between the ages of 18 and 64 and you receive SSD or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to a disability.

Ticket to Work Goals

The main goal of the Ticket to Work program California is to get disabled workers back into the workplace and to a position of economic independence. Those in the program receive access to and assistance finding gainful, meaningful employment in what are known as Employment Networks (EN).

Ticket to Work Requirements

Disabled individuals who want to participate in the Ticket to Work program must comply with certain Social Security Ticket to Work rules to keep their disability benefits safe, including the reporting of:

  • Income from employers and self-employment;
  • Workers’ comp benefits, vacation pay, and other income;
  • Assistance received to accomplish work;
  • Changes in pay rate and hours worked;
  • Change in or end of income payments;
  • Changes in employment status;
  • Payment dates.

To ensure program compliance, individuals should seek the services of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

Benefits of the Ticket to Work Disability Program

Disability benefits are a lifeline for millions of people, and losing them would be a disastrous result for many. What makes the SSI work ticket program attractive and beneficial is that participation in it does not directly put an individual’s benefits at risk.

This means that individuals may safely:

  • Begin benefits anew after ceasing work;
  • Engage in employment and continue to receive benefits;
  • Continue receiving medical care benefits from a health insurance policy;
  • Participate in the program without danger of a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) while progressing in their work and education goals.

How Does the Ticket to Work Program Work?

what is ticket to work

The Los Angeles Ticket to Work program puts disabled individuals in contact with various free employment services that can help them re-enter the workplace. Some of these services include:

  • Career counseling;
  • Vocational rehabilitation;
  • Job placement and training from authorized service providers.

The Ticket to Work program SSDI and SSI, which used to use paper tickets, now verify a person’s eligibility through the service provider that person chooses to work with. And finding the right service provider is easy, thanks to customer service representatives who answer your questions and help you put together a customized list of providers according to your case.

How Do I Get a Ticket to Work from Social Security?

Wondering how to get a ticket to work from Social Security? The Ticket to Work program offers two different ways to find appropriate work. One is to work with an Employment Network (EN) to find work you can do and create a return-to-work plan that is tailored to your specific needs. The other is to work with a state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency, which will also help you create an individualized plan. It’s even possible to work with both agencies if you choose: an EN can give you added support after a VR has done all it can. In either case, choosing local tends to be more efficient.

Since every situation is unique, some workers might choose one method over another or a combination of both. The takeaway is that both options are helpful.

Employment Networks (EN)

Under the Ticket to Work program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses vocational services, nonprofits, and other entities to help individuals find work. These are called employment networks.

The employment networks help individuals return to work or work for the first time with vocational training, resume writing classes, and job readiness training. Some of the employment networks employ people with disabilities to work at their own businesses as alternatives to the state departments of vocational rehabilitation. Some specialize in providing services to those with certain disabilities, for example, developmental disabilities.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies

VR agencies operate at the state level and provide workers with numerous resources that help them enter or re-enter the workplace. Some of these resources include:

  • Education;
  • Skills training;
  • Other types of aid for those with great needs.

As mentioned, VRs and ENs are not exclusive. Future workers who complete VR training may subsequently take advantage of the services offered by an EN.

Medicaid and Medicare Ticket to Work Program Incentives

social security work program

The Social Security Administration knows that people fear losing their access to Medicaid or Medicare because they start earning too much money. For this reason, the SSA allows disabled individuals to continue receiving Medicaid and Medicare for as long as 93 months after their SSI or SSDI Ticket to Work program payments has ceased.

Keep in mind that some individuals have access to more affordable healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) than Medicare and its associated supplemental plans. If a worker chooses to cancel Medicare and use the ACA, that worker cannot return to Medicare except through expedited reinstatement approval of SSI or SSDI.

If a worker cancels Medicare, there could be instances when that worker may be subject to penalties for not being covered if they are not eligible for their state to buy them into Medicare.

Other Ticket to Work Incentives and the Answer to “How Does the Social Security Ticket to Work Program Work?”

The Social Security Administration has a variety of other incentives for disabled workers to get back into the workplace, depending on the type of Social Security disability benefits a person might be receiving, including a trial work period, an extended period of eligibility, and expedited reinstatement of disability payments.

Of the three just mentioned, only those on a Ticket to Work program for SSDI and not SSI Ticket to Work program can take advantage of the trial work period and extended eligibility. But expedited reinstatement of benefits applies to individuals in an SSI or SSDI Ticket to Work program.

Trial Work Period

The trial work period encompasses a period of nine months, which does not have to be consecutive. During this period, disabled person can continue to receive their full benefits regardless of how much income they earn on the job.

That said, there is a minimum that person must earn in a month for that month to count as part of the trial work period. Currently, that minimum is $970 per month, whether from W2 work or self-employment jobs.

Extended Period of Eligibility

The extended period of eligibility covers a 36-month period, during which a disabled person who has completed their nine-month trial work period remains eligible to receive their Social Security check.

The qualifier, however, is that the worker may not earn more than the official substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit, which varies depending on whether a person is blind. As of 2022, the blind and non-blind SGA limits are $1,350 and $2,260, respectively.

Once an individual exceeds their SGA limit, or once the 36-month time limit has passed, that individual will no longer be able to receive disability benefits.

Expedited Reinstatement

Expedited reinstatement refers to a streamlined process that workers may take advantage of in order to return to the benefits they received prior to going back to work. Although the process is allegedly expedited, it can take months for an eligible beneficiary to begin receiving payments again. Workers contemplating this move should have money saved to help them during the waiting process.

Additionally, an experienced disability attorney can be helpful in making sure that no unnecessary delays keep a worker from their payments, such as improperly filled out paperwork and missed filing deadlines.

What Happens to Your Disability Benefits with the Disability Ticket to Work Program?

ticket to work program california

Your SSDI or SSI benefits will continue until you start earning wages or self-employment income above the applicable earnings limits for those programs.

Also, while participating in the Ticket to Work program and meeting timely progress goals, your Continuing Disability Reviews that check the status of your medical condition will be suspended.

Remember – Ticket to Work services are free and participation is voluntary. If you do not choose to try the program, your SSDI or SSI benefits will not be affected.

Additionally, if you do decide to take advantage of the disability Ticket to Work program, you have little to fear about losing your benefits as long as you stay in compliance with the program. The SSA wants disabled individuals back in the workforce and does what it can to incentivize this outcome.

However, workers must take care to follow the rules. Certain missteps of noncompliance can result in the loss of benefits, either temporarily or permanently. With the aid of a disability lawyer, workers can securely participate in the program without running afoul of time and income limits.

How to Apply for Ticket to Work Program

Wondering how to apply for the Ticket to Work program? Visit the Ticket to Work website for extensive information on the program including:

  • How to get started and how to get a ticket to work from Social Security;
  • Learn about service providers;
  • What job training is available;
  • Read real-life success stories.

Once you begin working with an employment network, you have seven years to work on education, job training, and actual work.

The process can sometimes be confusing, and missteps can lead to considerable delays and misunderstandings. However, individuals can avoid these negative consequences and get the understanding and help they need to navigate the process by reaching out to a disability attorney with experience representing people in cases such as these.

We Can Help with Your Social Security Disability Application or Appeal

how does ticket to work program work

For those disabled individuals who can work, the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Benefits Ticket to Work program can be a financially and emotionally positive thing.

If you need help understanding this program and how it will affect your benefits, contact the Kenton Koszdin Law Office today for a free consultation and case review by calling (818) 293-4980. An experienced and caring Social Security disability attorney is ready to help you make the right choices for your future.


Can I use the Ticket to Work Program if I am self-employed?

Yes. Self-employed individuals may use the Social Security disability Ticket to Work program just like those workers who are employed by someone else. Income thresholds and SGA limits are the same for both types of employment as are the main reporting requirements.

How long can ticket holders receive health benefits?

Individuals participating in the Ticket to Work program can receive benefits for an initial nine-month trial period, followed by a 36-month extended period of eligibility. However, at all times, the disabled worker must earn below the income thresholds mentioned earlier.

Can a ticket holder work from home?

Yes. Many opportunities exist for disabled workers who have to or want to work from home, including those with mobility issues, such as wheelchair-bound workers. Various Employer Networks have open opportunities available for those who choose this path.

Can a ticket holder start a business?

Yes. A ticket holder can start their own business. In fact, the Ticket to Work Program works with service providers who have experience in helping disabled individuals take full control of their work life and plan and start their own business ventures.

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