Ben celebrating 20 yearsFor the past 20 years, Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program has offered free employment supports and resources to over one million people with disabilities to help them achieve their work goals. Robert Pfaff, Social Security's Director of the Office of Employment Support, shares how the Ticket program can help you on your path to work.

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Happy 20th Anniversary, Ticket to Work

Dec 16, 2019

A Message to Social Security Disability Beneficiaries on the 20th Anniversary of the Ticket to Work Program

Ben celebrating 20 years

By Robert Pfaff

Happy 20th Anniversary, Ticket to Work!

On December 17, 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. That new law increased the options for individuals with disabilities, who wished to return to work or work for the first time, through a bold initiative: the Ticket to Work program. By using their "Ticket," Social Security disability beneficiaries, ages 18 through 64, can seek free employment services through an Employment Network (EN) or their state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency.

Over the course of 20 years, the Ticket program has served over one million people with significant mental and physical disabilities through a modern, nationwide employment services and support system comprised of more than 700 providers drawn from both the public and private sectors. Every year, thousands of people with disabilities find jobs and leave Social Security disability benefits behind to support themselves through employment. In many cases, they will earn more than they would have from benefit payments.  

As the Director of the office that oversees the Ticket program, I want to take this 20th anniversary opportunity to remind you what the Ticket program is all about.

  • The Ticket program is free and voluntary. There is also no penalty for not participating. It's up to you to decide if it's right for you!
  • The goal of the Ticket program is for you to improve your quality of life through work, if you're able. You replace your benefit payments with earnings from employment, and the program provides a safety net while you work toward supporting yourself.
  • By participating in the Ticket program, you are agreeing to put forth your best effort to reduce your reliance on Social Security disability benefits.
  • Ticket to Work Help Line representatives and service providers, (ENs and VRs) can tell you about the advantages of working and the risks of leaving benefit payments. 
  • Social Security has special rules and programs called "Work Incentives" that may let you keep some or all of your Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits while you earn money through work.
  • Social Security understands that your medical benefits are a major concern.  If you receive Medicaid, depending on the state you live in and other factors, you may also be able to keep it, even when you go to work.  If you receive Medicare and continue to meet the medical disability requirements, you can keep your free coverage for at least 93 months, even when you go to work.

If you want to work, but have questions about whether it is the right choice for you, I hope you'll 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. You can ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find one on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

If you want to work, but have questions about whether it is the right choice for you, I hope you'll 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. You can ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find one on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

The prospect of entering the workforce may seem daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. For 20 years, beneficiaries with disabilities who are ready to work have turned to the Ticket program for support in the next step in their life's journey. This could be your year!  

About the blogger

Robert Pfaff is Director of the Office of Employment Support in the Social Security Administration. In this position, he provides executive management in the administration of the Social Security Ticket to Work program.

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