Learn how to stay on the path to a better future once you are hired.

Access to Employment Support Services for Social Security Disability Beneficiaries Who Want to Work
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Your Path to Work: Phase 4

Whether you are just considering working, ready to find a service provider to help you, are looking for a job, or already working and want to keep on the road to financial independence, explore the Path to Work to learn more at every part of your journey. Select the phase that best describes where you are on your journey at the top and then use the blue buttons to navigate to each article.

Phase 4: Managing Your Job provides information to keep you on the path to a better future once you are hired including starting your job the right way, managing money and understanding the impact of work on benefits.

Get Started Working In the Right Way

You or the person you know interested in working has just achieved success by securing a job. Having a job is something to be proud of and a great achievement on the path to financial independence.

If you have not had a job before or worked for some time, transitioning to work can be difficult, but we are here to provide you information on how to succeed in a new job. This series of messages will provide you with information and guidance about keeping a job, transitioning to a new career and achieving financial independence. Here are some tips for preparing for the first day on your new job.

The first day on a new job can be exciting (and maybe a little scary), and it's common to be nervous. You may have to absorb a lot of information. Making some decisions beforehand will help you be more relaxed and ready.

Before the first day of the job, you should:

  • Determine if there is a need for any job accommodations. Visit the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) for free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.
  • Plan how you will get to and from your new job. Do a practice run on getting to work to learn about traffic or mass transit patterns and schedules.
  • Get together any supplies you might need, such as a pen to fill out forms.
  • Decide what to wear and set out the clothes the night before. This will save time in the morning.  If there is a question about what to wear, check with the employer first to find out if there's a dress code.
  • Prepare for lunch or other meals. Are there places nearby to buy lunch or is bringing food from home the best option? Read our Choose Work Blog post “Healthy Choices on Your Journey to Work” for some tips.
  • Get enough rest the night before the first day to have enough energy in the morning.

During the first week, you should:

  • Keep an open mind and be ready to work and learn.
  • Take notes of important information during training.
  • Ask questions. When assigned a task, don’t say, “Yes, I got it,” or “Sure, no problem” if you are not certain what to do. It is better to ask a lot of questions to get it right, than to go on your own and get it wrong.
  • When meeting new co-workers, use their names in conversation to help remember them.
  • Schedule a meeting with your supervisor to:
    • Clarify your job responsibilities
    • Discuss any job accommodations you might require
    • Learn the supervisor’s preferences and expectations in terms of communication feedback. If appropriate, create a professional development plan with clear goals and objectives on what to learn and the skills to develop
    • Ask about the "chain of command" and find out where to go for help or information
  • Establish a “help network” at work. After understanding the organization better, it’s important to build relationships at work to increase the chance of success. Know who can help with a problem or question or pitch-in when needed.

Download this list as a printable checklist here!

Meeting new people and getting new information will make the first day zip by. After the first day of work, you might go home feeling tired and overwhelmed. The good news is that the first day only happens once! Each day the daily routine gets easier and more understandable, and opportunities begin to emerge to start building a career.

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What happens to Social Security disability benefits while working?

When you are working, you need to be aware of the safety nets that are in place to provide support and protect benefits, and how having earnings will affect benefits. These safety nets from Social Security are called Work Incentives.

Here are two Work Incentives available to individuals on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):

1. Trial Work Period:

  • If you are on SSDI and (in 2018) earn less than $850 per month in gross wages, or work fewer than 80 hours in self-employment in a month, benefits will not be affected (gross wages are what is earned before taxes and other deductions).
  • If you are on SSDI and earn gross wages per month of more than $850, or work more than 80 hours in self-employment in a month, you use what is called a Trial Work Period service month. The Trial Work Period allows you to earn any amount of earnings and continue to receive your full SSDI cash benefit. This continues until you have used nine (9) Trial Work Period service months in any rolling 60-month (five-year) period.
  • Trial Work Period months don’t have to happen in a row. For example, if you earn more than $810 gross in one month but less than $810 the next month, only one Trial Work Period service month is used in those two months. A Ticket to Work service provider (an Employment Network or a state Vocational Rehabilitation agency) or the Ticket to Work Help Line can help you estimate how many Trial Work Period service months you have used, though only Social Security can tell you how many you have left.

2. Extended Period of Eligibility:

  • After the Trial Work Period ends, if you are an SSDI beneficiary, you move into what is known as the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE).
  • During this 36-month (three-year) period, you receive full cash benefits for months where gross earnings are below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level, which in 2016 is $1,130 (or $1,820 if your disability is due to blindness). You can also potentially earn more than that amount, since certain types of support or assistance you receive in order to go back to work can possibly be deducted from the amount used to determine SGA.

Rules for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are different as earnings may reduce the amount of the SSI check without eliminating it, depending on how much has been earned. Please remember, though, that almost any amount earned may affect your SSI cash benefit. You can find out more in Social Security’s Red Book. A Ticket to Work service provider, including your local Work Incentive Planning and Assistance organization can also explain how these and other Work Incentives work.

Whether you receive SSDI or SSI, it is very important to let Social Security know about work activity and wages earned. A Ticket to Work service provider can explain Social Security's work and wage reporting requirements and assist with reporting earnings to Social Security.

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Managing Money

One key to making the journey to financial independence a success is to learn about the basics of financial literacy, which includes managing your personal finances. Having this knowledge not only improves your financial health, it can improve overall health as well.

Money can often be a source of stress for many people. So it's important to start taking control of your finances today.

To learn how to take control of your finances and build a financially independent future, we recommend visiting MyMoney.gov. MyMoney.gov is the U.S. government's website dedicated to teaching all Americans the basics about financial education. The site can help you prepare for life events (e.g. births, buying a home, losing a job, retirement) that can affect your finances. Check out the money management tools, such as worksheets for setting up a household budget and a financial savings calculator to get started today!

For more money management tips, visit our blog series Money Mondays: Your Path to Financial Independence. Created to teach and inspire, the blog series provides detailed information on managing money to help you achieve financial independence. Sign up to receive blog updates so you don’t miss our weekly tips!

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Tips on Opening a Bank Account and Starting a Budget

When you or someone you know is working and earning a paycheck, it’s a good time to think about how to manage your new income.  We are committed to helping you improve your financial literacy and progress on the path to financial independence!

A great first step to take is to open an account with a bank or credit union. It can make all the difference in the world! With a bank account, you can avoid extra fees to cash paychecks, and there will be no worries about having large amounts of cash stolen from your home or from a wallet or purse because it's safe in a bank or credit union.

By keeping money in a bank or credit union, you can also start establishing or improving credit when needed, because creditors look at how you handle your bank or credit union accounts to see if you are a good candidate for a loan. To learn about the differences between a bank and credit union, read a blog post in our Money Mondays series, “Setting Up a Bank Account.”

Another first step on the journey to financial independence is developing a budget. Use a budget to plan how to pay for your expenses and save to meet your goals. Read our Money Mondays post “Creating a Budget Today to Improve Your Tomorrow.”

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Preventing an Overpayment Situation

An overpayment occurs when Social Security pays you or someone you know more in benefits than you should have been paid. This usually happens when you fail to report to Social Security, or fail to report to them in a timely manner, a change in living situation, marital status, work status or amount of income received.

Overpayments can be stressful, but they are also avoidable! Learning about which changes, income and events must be reported, when they must be reported and the best way to report them can protect you from an overpayment situation.

Here are a few steps you can take to protect your earnings by avoiding overpayments:

  • Keep your information up-to-date with Social Security.
  • Report when you start and stop working and if you change your hours or rate of pay.
  • if you receive SSI, report if you have a change in living arrangements or available resources.  
  • If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you can easily report your earnings using Social Security's SSI Telephone Wage Reporting system.
  • And, if you use a smartphone, Social Security offers a free SSI Mobile Wage Reporting application to report monthly wages. You should contact your local Social Security office to see which wage reporting option is best for you.
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Time to Talk about Timely Progress

When you are working, you are likely achieving what Social Security calls “timely progress” towards a work goal. Social Security considers it to be timely progress toward financial independence when you show that you are able to work at levels that will reduce your dependence on Social Security disability benefits.

Your service provider should have discussed timely progress with you while developing your individual work plan (IWP). If it has been about a year since developing this IWP, then it is time for the first Timely Progress Review, or TPR.

Every 12 months, Social Security will check to make sure that you are making the expected progress towards your work goal.  Your Ticket to Work service provider will send documentation to verify your timely progress, but Social Security may ask for documentation from you as well.  So it is important to keep good records of earnings, transcripts or certificates of completion for trainings or classes taken or other evidence of progress based on the IWP.

Make sure you follow your IWP and continue to work towards timely progress, keeping records of progress along the way. If you are having trouble reaching your goals, ask your Ticket to Work service provider how they can help.

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Maintaining Services Through Partnership Plus

Did you know that after Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services end, you can assign your Ticket to an Employment Network (EN) and enjoy continued support at each stage of your journey to financial independence? This can happen through an arrangement called “Partnership Plus.”

After VR services end, you may find that you need services to help you keep your job and increase your earnings over time. That’s why state VR agencies often partner with ENs that provide job retention services and other types of ongoing employment support.

Why work with an EN now? The right EN will provide the services needed to maintain a job and continue to advance toward work goals.

You can talk with as many ENs as needed to see what they have to offer. Ask questions to find the best match and check to see if they have an EN Profile in the Find Help Tool at www.choosework.net for details on their services and performance. Remember to take notes as you talk to each EN and compare the services they offer with what you need. Learn more about choosing the right EN!

Partnership Plus arrangements vary from state to state. Ask your VR counselor how it can work for you! For more information, read our blog Partnership Plus: Service Providers Working Together for Your Success or contact the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 / 866-833-2967 (TTY) or support@choosework.ssa.gov.

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Be Our Next Success Story!


It’s important to stay motivated and continue to excel at work. Get inspired again by one of our Success Stories, many of whom are well on their way to financial independence.

Meet Jesus, Shileta, Lori, Renate and others who have achieved their employment goals and are now living financially independent lives!

Will you be our next success story? Share your success by contacting stories@choosework.ssa.gov

Remember, if you ever have trouble with a job or questions about working, benefits or the program, help is here. Ticket to Work service providers are committed to your success. You can also contact the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY), M - F 8 AM - 8 PM ET if you have questions about the Ticket program or are not satisfied with the services received from a service provider.

We hope you have enjoyed the information about your Path to Work. If you want to recap this information, you can receive it via email on a weekly basis by signing up here. You can also check your knowledge about your path to work using our online tutorials. And if you have any other questions, feel free to call the Ticket to Work Help Line!

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