Ben making progressWhen you make the decision to pursue financial independence through work, you may find that you go through several phases, or stages, on the path to work. Learn more about some of the basic phases to discover what you may be thinking about or doing – and how Social Security's Ticket to Work program may offer the support and services you need.

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Where Are You on the Path to Work?

Feb 5, 2019

Ben in front of a sign reading: making progressSocial Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for adults ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI/SSI) and want to work. Through this free and voluntary program, eligible people with disabilities can receive supports and services to help them find and maintain work as they pursue financial independence.

While everyone's path to work and financial independence is different, you may find yourself in one of 4 general phases. Find out what each phase typically includes and how a Ticket program service provider may be able to help you.

Phase 1: Ticket to Work

What you may be doing during Phase 1: Deciding if work is right for you. This includes thinking about how work and earned income will affect your benefits.

How Ticket to Work may help: Only you can choose if work is right for you, but a Ticket program service provider that offers benefits counseling may help you better understand the effects of working and earned income on your benefits. They can also show you how Social Security Work Incentives can serve as a safety net and allow you to continue receiving Medicare or Medicaid and, in some cases, cash payments as you transition to the workplace.

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Phase 2: Ready to Work

What you may be doing during Phase 2: Identifying your goals. This is the time to start thinking about the types of jobs that interest you and matching them to the experience and skills that you have. Working with a Ticket program service provider will offer you free services to support your goals.

How the Ticket program may help: Your service provider will work with you to develop an Individual Work Plan (IWP) that serves as a roadmap to success in employment. They'll help you identify your work goals, as well as the specific supports and services they'll provide to help you reach them.

Training and Education

Everyone’s path to work may be different. If you are pursuing your work goals and need supports and services to obtain the training or education for your career goal, the Ticket program may be able to help.

Certain Social Security Work Incentives, like the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) or the Student-Earned Income Expense (SEIE), may allow you to set aside some earned income or deduct a portion of  your earned income as you gain the training and education you need.

If you’re working with your State VR agency, they may also be able to help you connect with opportunities to gain the training, skills and knowledge you need to reach your work goals.

When Laura was in school on the path to her goals, she used a Social Security-approved PASS and the SEIE Work Incentives. Learn more about Laura in her Ticket to Work success story!

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Phase 3: Getting a Job

What you may be doing during Phase 3: Applying for jobs. This includes writing or editing your resume, filling out job applications and going to job interviews.

How the Ticket program may help: When you're developing your IWP with your service provider, they'll identify the services they provide, and this may include resume review and editing, interview preparation and mock interviews and even job placement. Working with your service provider may help you present your best self to potential employers by highlighting your skills and experience in your resume and helping you feel more confident during an interview.

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Phase 4: Managing your job

What you may be doing during Phase 4: Congratulations! You've found a job and have started transitioning to the workplace! During this phase, you'll need to make sure that you report your work and wages to Social Security and assess whether you need any workplace accommodations.

How the Ticket program may help: Even though you've found a job, your service provider may continue to offer you key supports and services to help you succeed. They may be able to answer your questions about wage reporting and remind you of Work Incentives that apply to you. And if you find that you need a reasonable accommodation, they may help you through the process of requesting one.

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Learn more

Keep in mind that every person's path to work is an individual journey and may include different stages. You can learn more about the Path to Work and discover even more resources to help you toward financial independence through work on our website at choosework.ssa.gov/about/your-path-to-work.

While this can offer you more detail about some of the basic phases of pursuing your work goals, you may find that your path is a little different. Working with a Ticket program service provider throughout each of the phases you experience may offer you the resources you need, like benefits counseling, when you need them, whether it's in phase 1, when you're thinking about work, or phase 3, as you're transitioning to the workplace.

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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