Making the Most of Ticket to Work

Tai Prohaska, MPH
Manager of Strategic Alliances, Allsup

If you had to stop working due to cancer, and were awarded Social Security Disability Ticket to WorkInsurance (SSDI), you could benefit from Social Security’s Ticket to Work program. Research shows that the longer a person is detached from the labor force, the less likely it is they will return to work. If and when you are medically able to try some kind of work, this program makes it easier for you to test whether you are ready to work, without the fear of losing your SSDI and Medicare benefits.

Many people are able to earn much more through work earnings than they receive in SSDI benefits, and those earnings go toward your future Social Security retirement benefits.  In addition, there are important personal rewards, including retrieving an important part of who you are through your work, discovering purpose in your day and belonging with others, and providing vital security for your future.

To make the most of the program, it helps to understand these Ticket to Work basics:

  • Employment Networks (ENs). More than 600 ENs across the U.S. offer a range of free support services through the Ticket program. Some ENs serve specific populations, while others provide specialized support services. You can click here to search for an EN. You can also visit Allsup Employment Services, which supports individuals with exploring their interests, understanding their skills, and pursuing their employment options. Once employed, they provide support to address issues such as improving energy and stamina for a full-time job, discussing job accommodations with employers and complying with Social Security’s reporting processes, to protect benefits for the long-term.
  • Trial Work Period (TWP). You can keep your SSDI cash benefits while testing your ability to work for nine months.  You have a safety net where you can test your ability to work again and receive your full SSDI benefits in addition to your job earnings.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE).  After Your TWP ends, you will get full SSDI benefits for the first three months of this 36-month period in addition to your job earnings. After that, you are eligible to receive SSDI benefits for any month your job earnings drop below substantial gainful activity (SGA).  In 2017, SGA is $1,170 for non-blind individuals and $1,950 for blind individuals.
  • Continuing Medicare Coverage. After your TWP ends, your Medicare coverage continues for up to 93 consecutive months. You still receive coverage during this time even if your SSDI payments end.
  • Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits.  If you become unable to work again within five years after your EPE ends, you can request to have your SSDI benefits restarted without filing a new application.
  • Continuing Disability Review (CDR) Protection. Social Security periodically reviews disability claims to determine if you still qualify as disabled.  As part of the Ticket to Work program, you are exempt from medical CDR and your status remains unchanged.

If you are ready and medically able to return to work, taking advantage of the Ticket to Work program can help prepare you for success. To learn more, visit https://choosework.ssa.gov.