Jessica in red shirtAfter completing her graduate degree and empowered by the support for Social Security's Ticket to Work Program service providers, Jessica was ready to enter the workforce and earn financial independence, all while keeping her Medicaid coverage. Learn how she did it.


When You Need Medicaid to Succeed at Work

Apr 25, 2023

Jessica in red shirtWithout Medicaid-funded healthcare and support, Jessica could not work. She had to consider the impact earning a paycheck would have on the benefits she relied on. Does this sound like you? Learn about Jessica's path to financial independence in today's blog post.

Meet Jessica

Jessica left graduate school with credentials and empowerment. While grateful for her Supplemental Security Income (SSI), she was eager to enter the workforce and earn enough money so she would no longer have to rely on a small, fixed income.

"I have student loans to pay," she said. "I wasn't going to sit on a degree."

Jessica knew she needed guidance as she prepared for a career. So, when information arrived in the mail about Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) Program, she gave them a call.

Jessica discovered that she was eligible to receive free employment support services such as career counseling and help finding a job. Through the Ticket Program, State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies and service providers known as Employment Networks (EN) help people who receive Social Security disability benefits (ages 18 through 64) prepare for, find, or maintain employment. The program is free and voluntary and helps people progress toward financial independence through work.

Jessica connected with The Choice Group, a Virginia-based EN that would help her plan a career, learn about the impact of earnings from work on her disability benefits, and navigate a job hunt.

"[The Choice Group] helped me shape an emerging interest into a focused career goal," she says. They paired Jessica's listening skills, advocacy experience, and her ability to identify people's strengths with the growing needs of an underserved population. Jessica and her career counselor created an Individual Work Plan (IWP), a roadmap to help her articulate and reach employment goals in the field of mental health counseling.

The Choice Group's Benefits Counselor educated Jessica about Social Security rules known as Work Incentives. Work Incentives make it easier for adults with disabilities to gain work experience while continuing to receive Medicaid or Medicare and in some cases, SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Jessica learned that after she was employed, her Medicaid coverage could continue, even if her earnings from work became too high for an SSI payment. This Work Incentive, called Continued Medicaid Eligibility (or 1619b), allowed Jessica to focus on pursuing employment without worrying about the sudden loss of benefits.

In addition, many states have a Medicaid Buy-In Program that allows a worker with a disability to buy Medicaid at affordable rates if they are no longer eligible for free Medicaid because they earn too much money.

"Learning about these [Work Incentives] was so helpful," Jessica reflected. "Entering the workforce with fewer unknowns improved my confidence... that I could have the support I needed, pay my bills, and work in my chosen field."

Finding a home at work while working from home

With help, Jessica updated her resume and LinkedIn profile, decided how to go about asking for reasonable accommodations, and practiced interviews. "The Choice Group gave me the guidance and encouragement I needed. They suggested questions I hadn't thought of, helped me follow up with employers and gather feedback," she recalls. "They saw something in me… I felt valued."

In 2020, Jessica landed a position at Virginia Counseling Associates where she works with clients of all ages, addressing the symptoms of mental illness. Jessica does one-on-one sessions, develops treatment plans, and facilitates therapy groups, while completing her certification as a Licensed Professional Counselor. She works from home most of the time doing telehealth sessions.

At a time when there is a growing need for mental health support, Jessica says being part of the solution brings her great satisfaction. Since trading in her SSI for a paycheck, her perspective has opened.

"Ticket to Work has made it possible for me to see a future with more support and less debt," she says. "I have options that were out of reach when I was relying on SSI, and it is liberating!"

With the right support, Jessica found her path to a better future. Find yours.

Join us on April 26 from 3-4:30 p.m. ET for our next Work Incentive Seminar Event webinar, How Will Work Affect My Medicaid or Medicare. Register today.

Can't make it? The archive will be posted mid-May. In the meantime, visit the Choose Work website and use our Find Help Tool to start building your employment team. Or 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.

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