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Social Security Disability Ticket to Work Program

Many people in the United States have never heard about a special free federal ムreturn to work’ program managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Those who have heard about it perhaps may think it is too good to be true.

Many people in the United States have never heard about a special free federal ‘return to work’ program managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Those who have heard about it perhaps may think it is too good to be true.

The Hidden Free Federal Program That Provides Free Job Placement Help

The voluntary, federal Social Security Ticket to Work Program has helped thousands of job seekers on SSDI or SSI find suitable employment in Work at Home or Onsite jobs since 2002. Authorized SSA agencies can help job seekers by offering free job placement and benefit counseling services.

The SSA Ticket To Work Program has been incredibly successful for over a decade because it is a voluntary program with trained service providers who specialize in job placement.

The Ticket To Work Program specifically enables qualified beneficiaries (ages 18-64), who receive either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), to try to return to work again while protecting they’re medical and disability benefits. This allows job seekers to “test the waters’”of working again with the help of a service provider to guide them.

The Ticket To Work Program is 100% voluntary and job seekers on SSDI or SSI who are wanting to try working again can decide, if and when to use it.  It is exclusively for people receiving SSDI or SSI ‘ non-retirement’ disability benefits. The individual must be receiving disability benefits for their own illness or injury.

Ticket to Work serves all 50 states and was created by and continues to be managed by the Social Security Administration since 2002.It was created to provide a choice of providers because, prior to Ticket to Work, persons with disabilities could only receive services through the State Vocational Rehabilitation departments (VR).  Now, there are hundreds of providers from whom to choose from.  It is an ‘outcome’ based program and the SSA only authorizes certain qualified agencies who want to provide free services under the program name. These agencies would include state agencies, non-profit organizations and private Employment Networks (EN’s).

These authorized service providers vary in terms of their specialties; locations served and range of services provided.Some agencies, for example, may be ‘virtual’ and serve their clients across many states.  While other agencies may only serve 1 or 2 states and have local offices only in certain cities.

Employment Network agencies, or EN’s, guide Ticket To Work clients by providing free vocational help across an array of employment services that may include: resume assistance, finding legitimate employers that fit abilities, job development, interview practice, accommodation assistance and guidance with disability and health insurance questions.  Many EN’s also help with career advancement.  All of these valuable resources and services are free to those on SSDI or SSI. A state vocational provider (VR) may offer some of the same above services and may also have resources for those who need more intensive job training or who have educational goals.

At one time, those who were eligible for Ticket To Work’s free job placement services would receive a ‘paper ticket’ from the SSA in the mail. However, a few years ago, a green initiative was implemented to save natural resources. SSA stopped mailing out paper tickets and now a beneficiary’s Social Security Number serves as their ‘ticket.’  They can assign their ‘ticket’ to any one of the hundreds of agencies in the federal program that serves their location.

Job seekers can research the different types of provider agencies in multiple ways including by calling the Ticket to Work Main Helpline at 866-968-7842 or by visiting the program’s main website and searching the Find Help Tool.  They can also call the Main Helpline if they are unsure if they have a valid ‘ticket.’

The Find Help search tool allows job seekers to search for the multitude of ‘virtual’ providers who help job seekers via phone, internet, and email.  Job seekers can also search for agencies that have ‘local’ offices for face to face meetings.

It is completely up to the job seeker, who wants to try the program, which agency they decide to assign their ‘ticket’ to.If they start working with an agency and then later decide the agency is not the best fit, they simply call the Main Program number at 866-968-7842 to dis-assign their ticket and find a new agency.  Job seekers can only be assigned to one Ticket to Work agency at a time.

The Ticket to Work Program has helped THOUSANDS of job seekers for over a decade find suitable employment and reach goals.  Not only in community ‘local’ jobs, but also in the growing industry of Work at Home.  Work at Home jobs for many people with disabilities can be life-changing. It opens employment doors and allows those, who may have difficulty working outside the home due to transportation or health reasons, to use their skills and abilities.

Many citizens are concerned to return to work because they are fearful they will lose their disability or medical insurance just because they start working. Those using the Ticket To Work program do not risk losing these benefits. The program has built-in ‘safety nets’ and ‘work incentives’ that an Employment network or Ticket to Work agency can help explain to a job seeker.  These Ticket To Work service providers are trained to help their clients navigate the process every step of the way.  A good provider can help reduce worry about benefits and insurance, explain how the program stages work, help track income and more – so the job seeker can focus on getting a job and working.

Check out the Ticket To Work program website to read inspirational success stories from people who have used the program from across the country to find success in either working from home or in jobs in their local communities.

A job can be so much more than just a paycheck’ for many people.  It can help boost self-esteem and help a person contribute to family finances again and use their skills and abilities.  What is great about the Ticket to Work Program is that no matter the outcome of the person’s attempt to return to work, the program gives a job seeker on SSDI or SSI the chance to try!

What should I know about the Social Security Disability Ticket to Work program?

The government created the Social Security Disability Ticket to Work, as an employment support program for people with disabilities. The program serves those who are receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability and who are interested in starting full or part-time work or increasing the work they already do. The goal of the Ticket to Work program is to increase opportunities for Social Security Disability beneficiaries to access vocational rehabilitation towards part- or full-time employment. The Ticket also assists in connecting the disabled person with other support services from public and private providers, employers, and other organizations.

Each provider group that administers services under Social Security Disability Ticket to Work is called an employment network. Each network receives government funding, including performance-based compensation; that is, they receive payments when you, the ticket-holder, achieve certain employment-related milestones or outcomes. These milestones are defined by the Ticket to Work plan you and the employment network agreed upon including those related to the return-to-work incentives.

Usually during an active Ticket to Work in which you are reaching the benchmarks and goals you have set your claim will not be reviewed in a continuing disability review (CDR) to see if you have recovered medically.

How to Use a Ticket to Work

First of all the Ticket to Work program is voluntary. You are not required to use the Ticket to Work just because the Social Security Administration issues you one. However, it is a great opportunity.

If you are given a Social Security Disability Ticket to Work, you’re encouraged to contact the Operations Support Manager to learn about the various employment networks in your area and to select one. You can also initiate getting a Ticket to Work by contacting Social Security’s Ticket to Work hotline at 1-866-968-7842 and you can access more information on Social Security’s website at www.ssa.gov/work.

Employment networks are not required to serve everyone who selects them. They can elect which specific services they want to offer, which people they are capable of serving, and in which geographical area they will work. If, after considering your work experience, skills, disability, age, and location, the network decides to accept your ticket, it will coordinate and provide appropriate services to help you find and maintain employment. At any time, you can switch to another employment network or the employment network can end its agreement with you. While you use the Ticket, you will have access to Social Security’s other work incentives for SSDI and SSI beneficiaries including continuation of Medicare for SSDI beneficiaries even when benefits end due to a successful, sustained return to work. 

A Ticket to Work and a Continuing Disability Review

Learn how a Continuing Disability Review affects your participation in a Ticket to Work or other vocational rehab programs, and where you can get aid if federal benefits cease.


If you begin the Ticket to Work Program shortly after a medical review is initiated, presumably Social Security is then able to finish the review since it had already begun prior to beginning the program. Hypothetically if Social Security finds that you are no longer disabled or medically improved, but you had already started the Ticket to Work program prior to them reaching a decision, does that mean you can ask to finish the program and still receive benefits and Medicare in the interim? The hope being that you can still use the program to find work before benefits are withdrawn. I just want to make sure I understand this. Thank you.


Dear Anon,

Social Security is likely to complete the review. If the claim is closed due to medical recovery, Medicare will stop. Your Ticket to Work will also terminate; however, if you had already started a vocational rehabilitation program you might be able to continue it or maybe even start one. The Ticket to Work sets up vocational services through your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. So, if you were already connected to the state and are either receiving vocational services or about to, the state might allow you to continue.

When Medicare stops, you will be eligible for a 60-day personal enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, where you may be able to get benefits with a government-subsidy to help with premiums. More information is available at www.healthcare.gov.


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