The Social Security Administration’s hope is that all disability recipients, who are able, are eventually weaned off Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and can “find a career, save more money, and become financially independent.”
They also understand, however, that returning to work has risks and that providing a temporary “safety net” can encourage workers who think they are ready to return to work with options for maintaining their health coverage and benefits for a time while they attempt the transition to full-time employment.
What is the Ticket to Work Program?
Everyone who is 18 to 64 years of age and is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income is eligible to participate in the Ticket to Work program. The goal of the Ticket to Work program is to help disability recipients manage the risks of returning to employment with specific services provided by the SSA.
There are two components of the Ticket to Work program: the Employment Network (EN), which is under contract with Social Security Administration to provide free services to beneficiaries, and the State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency.
Each of these networks is located in communities and can explain Social Security’s work incentive programs and provide direct advice to Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries including career counseling, job placement, and ongoing support services.
Benefits of the Ticket to Work Program to return to work
One of the main concerns of SSDI or SSI recipients who receive medical coverage is whether or not their medical coverage will be terminated if they return to work.
In 2000 the U.S. Government removed barriers for many disability applicants and allowed them to continue to receive coverage for several years after they returned to work. According to the SSA, “Medicare hospital insurance coverage extends for at least eight years and six months after most Social Security disability beneficiaries go to work. Medicare coverage continues even if an individual no longer receives a monetary benefit from Social Security.”
Medicaid coverage may also be extended, but requirements may vary by state, and the SSA recommends talking to the State Medicaid offices for more information.
Reinstatement of SSDI and SSI after a work attempt
Another major concern for SSDI and SSI recipients who are considering returning to work is what will happen if their work attempt is unsuccessful. In 2001, the SSA implemented an expedited reinstatement process for disabled workers who attempted to return to work, lost their SSDI or SSI benefits because their income was too high, but later realized that they were not able to work due to their medical conditions.
Keep in mind, the request for expedited reinstatement of benefits, including Medicare and Medicaid, must be made within 5 years after benefits are terminated.
Working and receiving SSDI or SSI
Many disability recipients start back to work without notifying the SSA. Working without understanding the trial work period for SSDI or how work affects SSI benefits can jeopardize your disability payments. The SSA wants recipients to return to work, and they will work with you, not against, to make the transition back to work as smooth as possible. Talk to the SSA BEFORE you return to work.