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Ticket to Work Program for SSDI or SSI Recipients

If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for a disability, but would like to explore your employment options, the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work program can help. Social Security disability benefit recipients between the ages of 18 and 65 are eligible for the program, which provides access to job training, vocational rehabilitation, job referrals, and related services.

The Ticket to Work Program makes it relatively easy for SSDI and some SSI participants (those who are blind or have a disability) to return to work without losing their benefits. More specifically, the program makes the following options possible:

  1. Ability to immediately return to monthly benefits if you need to stop working (see SSA's "Expedited Reinstatement" for more details)
  2. Ability to continue receiving health care benefits
  3. No requirement for a medical continuing disability review (CDR) while participating in the Ticket to Work program

How to Get Started

Anyone interested in participating in the program should call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TDD/TTY) or select "Explore Resources" at www.chooseworkttw.net, where you will be directed toward various job-related resources in your area. No formal registration is required, as the service provider you select will verify your eligibility by contacting SSA.

Two main types of providers are under contract with the SSA to provide free services to SSDI and certain SSI recipients:

  • Employment Networks: ENs provide career counseling, job placement, and continued support once you start your new job
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies: VRs are geared toward helping people who need to retrain for a new career or need more extensive services than those provided by ENs

You can search for a Ticket to Work service provider near you at the SSA's web site. You can also use the link above to search for a local Protection & Advocacy (P&A) agency, which provides free legal advice and advocacy services for Social Security disability benefit recipients.

What to Expect

If you choose to work with an EN, the staff will help you develop a plan for returning to work, including your career goals and the type of work you would like to perform. EN representatives also will state exactly which services they will provide to help you meet your goals. You have the right to go to another EN if you are not happy with their services.

The process is very similar if you choose to work with a VR, but your eligibility for VR services will be determined at the state level.

Before you start receiving services, both you and the VR or EN will have to sign the plan, a copy of which will be provided to you. If you decide to terminate the relationship with an EN, either you or an EN representative must contact the SSA. If you are working with a VR, you must finish your plan with the agency before seeking support from an EN.

Under the Ticket to Work program, you will be required to report any earnings to the SSA and the EN.

How the Program Affects Your Benefits

Those receiving SSDI benefits may receive their full benefit amount for a nine-month trial period (not necessarily consecutive) within a 60-month limit. That means you may perform various work "services" (defined by the SSA as work that pays a certain amount per month) within a five-year window totaling nine months while receiving your full benefit amount.

At the end of the trial work period, you will not receive SSDI benefits for months in which you have earned what the SSA considers "substantial" wages. You may continue to receive benefits for another 36 months after completing the nine-month trial work period if your earnings fall below that amount and you still have a disability. For more information, see SSA's "Working While Disabled -- How We Can Help."

For those receiving SSI benefits and participating in the Ticket to Work program, SSA does not count the first $65 or earnings each month plus one-half of the remainder against your monthly benefit amount.

To learn more about how your participation in the Ticket to Work program affects disability benefits, contact a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) provider in your area.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified social security lawyer to assist in your
social security disability matter.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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