Individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits have a medical condition that prevents them from obtaining employment or engaging in substantial gainful activity. SSDI beneficiaries often want to try and return to work, but they fear that they may lose their SSDI benefits or Medicare coverage. The Social Security Administration noticed that very few SSDI recipients make it back into the workforce, so they designed the Ticket to Work program to help those beneficiaries who wanted to return to work. This program provides many great benefits and protections for SSDI beneficiaries who want to try and work again. Keep reading as we give you all the details about this important program.
What Is The “Ticket to Work” Program?
The Ticket to Work program is a program designed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1999. This program helps disabled workers between the ages of 18 and 64 return to the workplace. The program is free, and it is completely voluntary. Even though it is a free program, it provides many wonderful benefits to the individuals who are eligible. Program participants can take advantage of free vocational rehabilitation services, such as job training, resume writing, job placement, and other services.
Upon starting the program, the participant will select an employment network or vocational rehabilitation facility. Once you select the services you wish to use, you will work with them to develop a career plan. Your “ticket” will be assigned to the service provider you selected, and they will be paid by the Social Security Administration. You will work to make progress toward your career goals, and the employment services provided to you will not cost you anything. The program as a whole is designed to increase self-sufficiency among Social Security disability insurance recipients. The program helps many of these people return to work and become financially self-sufficient.
Who Qualifies For The Ticket To Work Program?
You might be wondering what the eligibility requirements for the Ticket to Work program are. There are many people who can qualify for the program, so here is what you need to know about the eligibility criteria. First, the program is available to recipients of both Social Security disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The program is available to almost all benefit recipients in both of these programs, with a few exceptions. If you meet any of the criteria in the next paragraph, then you are not eligible to participate in the program.
If your medical condition is expected to improve but you have not yet had a continuing disability review, you will not be eligible to participate. However, if you have received disability benefits for three years without a review, you become eligible. Those individuals who have reached age 18 but continue to receive SSI benefits under the child standards are not eligible to participate in the Ticket to Work program. If you are receiving temporary benefits under the expedited reinstatement rules or advance benefit payments for presumptive disability, you will not be eligible to participate. Those receiving only state-funded SSI benefits and no federal money will not qualify. Finally, those individuals who are receiving continued benefits while appealing a medical cessation decision are ineligible. So, if you receive SSI or SSDI disability payments and do not meet any of the criteria mentioned here, then you will be eligible to participate in the Ticket to Work program.
Getting Started With Ticket To Work
So, how can Social Security disability beneficiaries get started with the ticket program and gain financial independence? Here is how to get started. First, you should contact the SSA Ticket to Work helpline associated with the program at 1-866-968-7842. You can speak to a representative who will be able to answer all your questions about the program and send you a list of available providers in your area. You can also use the program’s online Ticket to Work tool to find providers in your area. Once you find a provider that you wish to work with, you will assign them your “ticket.” This begins your participation in the program.
You will then work with your selected provider to identify your employment goals and put together a plan to achieve them. Participation in the program is free and voluntary, but your participation requires you to make progress toward the employment goals you identified. Although you will not be subject to a continuing disability review during your time in the program, Social Security does perform annual reviews to ensure that you are making progress toward your goals. Your participation in the program can last up to seven years. If SSA finds that you are not progressing toward your goals, then you might become subject to a disability review once again.
In addition to the free help and employment support services provided by the program, there are many work incentives provided by the Social Security Administration as part of the program. Many people think that a return to work will cause their disability benefits to stop immediately, but that is not the case in this program. We will discuss these incentives in more detail later in this article.
What You Need To Know About The Trial Work Period
The trial work period is one of the work incentives provided to SSDI recipients who participate in the Ticket to Work program. The trial work period allows a program participant to return to work without an immediate loss of their disability benefits—regardless of how
much they earned during the period. You might already know that earning more than $1,350 per month will typically put an end to your disability benefits. However, there is no limit during your trial work period.
This period of time lets you test your ability to return to work without worrying that your benefits will be stopped. The trial work period lasts for a period of nine months, although the months do not have to be consecutive. Whether or not a particular month counts as a trial month depends on how much you earn during the month or how many hours you work. If you earn more than $970 during a month or work more than 80 hours during a month of self-employment, it will be considered a trial month. After you have exhausted all nine months of your trial work period, you will enter the extended period of eligibility. During this period, it is much easier to have your benefits reinstated if you must stop working due to your disability.
Ticket To Work Program Incentives
As we previously mentioned, the Ticket to Work program provides many work incentives for participants. One of the biggest incentives is the trial work period. During this period, program participants may attempt to return to work and continue to receive their full SSDI benefits regardless of how much income they earn from working. The period allows for nine months of unlimited earnings, and the nine months do not have to be consecutive. Another incentive is the expedited reinstatement period. After your trial work period expires, you enter a 3-year period of expedited reinstatement. This means that if you must quit your job due to your disability, your benefits can be reinstated quickly without going through the full disability application process.
Exemption from continuing disability reviews is another incentive provided by the program to job seekers. As long as you participate in the program and are making timely progress toward your employment goals, you will not be required to participate in any continuing medical reviews. Finally, the program may allow you to continue your Medicare coverage for up to 93 months after your cash benefits end. So, even though you may no longer receive monthly SSDI payments, you can keep your Medicare coverage for almost eight years while working.
Additional Work Incentives
Believe it or not, the Ticket to Work program offers additional work incentives beyond those mentioned in the previous section. First, the program authorizes many grants to agencies that assist with work planning and assistance. The program also encourages states to make their Medicaid programs available to people who earn up to 250% of the federal poverty level. This provides another health care coverage option for those individuals who attempt to return to work and become financially self-sufficient.
In addition to incentives like free career development, benefits counseling, and help with your job search, the Ticket to Work program offers resources for people who wish to start their own business. Many participating employment programs and networks have experience assisting individuals with disabilities to start their own businesses. This can provide an equal opportunity to people who wish to become self-employed. These resources can assist you with writing a business plan, determining your target market, understanding business financials, and other important aspects of owning a business.
The Bottom Line
The Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program provides great benefits and incentives to individuals who receive disability benefits but want to return to work. These individuals can receive free job training and resources, and they are entitled to a trial work period that allows them to earn an unlimited income for nine months while attempting to return to work. They will still receive their full disability benefits during this trial period. In addition, as long as they are making timely progress toward their employment goals, program participants will not be subject to any continuing medical reviews. This is a great program for disability beneficiaries who want to become self-sufficient and return to work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get a second trial work period?
No, you cannot get a second trial work period. However, you might be eligible for expedited reinstatement of your benefits. After your trial work period ends, you will enter the expedited reinstatement period. During this five-year period, you can have your benefits reinstated quickly if you must stop working due to your disability. You might even be entitled to receive provisional benefits for up to six months while the SSA makes a final determination on the reinstatement of your benefits.
What happens if I earn more than Social Security disability allows?
If you earn more than Social Security disability allows, your benefits will be stopped. However, keep in mind that you can earn an unlimited amount during your trial work period without any effect on your benefits. This trial period consists of nine months of unlimited earnings, and the months do not have to be consecutive. After your trial work period expires, earning more than the Social Security disability earnings limit will cause your benefits to stop. However, you might qualify for expedited reinstatement if you are forced to quit your job due to your disability.
How much can you make during the trial work period?
There is no limit to the amount you can make during the trial work period. If you earn more than $970 per month, then that month will be considered a trial work month. You are entitled to a total of nine months of trial work, and the months do not have to be consecutive. So, if you earned $1,000 in January, $1,200 in March, and $1,500 in June, you would have used three of your nine trial work months. Similarly, if you earned $20,000 in a single month, that could still qualify as a trial work month.
What happens after the trial work period?
After your trial work period, you enter the expedited reinstatement period. This period typically lasts for five years. During this period, you will not receive your monthly cash disability benefits. However, you might still be eligible to keep your Medicare coverage. During this time, you will likely be working and earning more than the Social Security limit. If you are forced to quit your job due to your disability, you can have your disability benefits reinstated quickly. You will not be required to go through the full application process again during the expedited reinstatement period.