Did you know that if you're eligible for Social Security's Ticket to Work Program, you have the option to work with your State VR agency and an EN? Let's explore how this works and the experiences of Amy and Jason.

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Make the Most of Your Ticket: Work with your State VR Agency and an Employment Network

Did you know that if you're eligible for Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) Program, you have the option to work with your State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency and an Employment Network (EN)? Let's explore how this works and the experiences of Amy and Jason, two of our Ticket Program success stories.

You may be familiar with State VR agencies. There are VR agencies in every state. These agencies usually work with individuals who need significant services. In some instances, this includes intensive training, education and rehabilitation. They may also provide career counseling, job placement assistance and counseling about how working may affect your Social Security disability benefits.

"Partnership Plus is a way of offering our clients a continuum of support beyond our time-limited services. We have agreements with other providers who can address specific client needs with added supportive services. Our partners follow up with clients after their case is closed to make sure things are going well [at work], and to provide whatever help is necessary so they don't lose that job."

- Mark, Director of Jason's VR

However, you may be less familiar with ENs and the services they offer. All ENs provide career planning and assistance with job search activities, and some serve people with certain disabilities. Specialized services offered by some ENs include benefits counseling, resume writing, interview skills and assistance requesting job accommodations. In addition, some ENs help you stay organized and communicate with Social Security or your employer. Receiving services from an EN means having a resource in your corner so it's important to find an EN that offers services that meet your needs.

Your State VR agency can be a good place to begin exploring your work options. Many people gain skills and find work with help from their State VR agency. However, if your job search is successful, generally after you have been employed for at least 90 days, the State VR agency will close your case.

Some State VR agencies partner with ENs that provide free job retention services and other types of ongoing support. This arrangement, known as Partnership Plus, gives Ticket Program participants continued access to individualized employment services, if needed. In this way, once your case is closed, you can receive additional ongoing support to help you keep and advance in your job and increase your earnings over time.

Not all states have formal Partnership Plus agreements, but with your Ticket you can still work with an EN once your State VR has closed your case.

Meet Amy and Jason

Amy has a developmental disability that affects language, learning and social interactions. Her symptoms include sensory information overload, difficulty with social cues, and distraction when performing tasks.

At 18, Jason began receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to bipolar disorder and considered where his life was headed without a diploma. Not liking the prospects, he earned his GED. When Jason's doctor identified the right treatment plan, Jason's symptoms stabilized.
When they were ready, Amy and Jason both knew they wanted to earn a good living, but they were going to need some help.

Building Their Employment Teams

Amy and Jason both connected with their State VR agencies. Their VR counselors told them about the services available through the Ticket Program. They learned that if you're an adult age 18 through 64 and receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI/SSI), you're eligible to participate in the Ticket Program.

Amy on the Job

Amy headshotThanks to an agreement between Amy's VR agency and her EN, Amy continues to receive support services from her EN after her VR closed her case. As a Principal Administrative Aide for her county's Department of Finance, Amy wears many hats in her role assisting the property tax collection manager. Amy's job coach says that Partnership Plus has helped many clients who otherwise might not have access to continued employment support. Partnership Plus sets clients like Amy up for long-term job success by allowing them to keep ongoing employment support services, such as job-coaching.

While Amy is a Ticket Program participant, her EN, Full Circle, (and their partner SEEC) work with Amy on "soft skills," with job coaching that helps her reduce anxiety, prioritize tasks, manage impulses, exercise flexibility, and learn appropriate workplace protocols.

"I've learned how to adjust when things change," she reflects, noting that the support she receives from her job coach at SEEC is helping her grow personally and professionally.
Meanwhile, staff at Full Circle check in regularly to help Amy stay organized, correspond with Social Security and address any job-related issues that arise. Amy can focus on navigating the workplace, building upon her professional experiences, and strengthening her connections with coworkers.

Building Jason's Toolbox

Jason headshotTogether, Jason and his VR counselor developed an Individualized Plan for Employment, a road map to help him reach his goals. "We agreed that going to school should be the first step. I enrolled in Southeast Community College," he says. "I fell in love with the Human Services program there and graduated with an associate degree." Subsequently, Jason was offered a job as a Community Support Professional at a local agency that helps adults with developmental disabilities integrate into the community.

Soon after Jason's VR case closed, his VR counselor gave him suggestions on how to select an EN that would be able to meet his needs. Nebraska's VR has a Partnership Plus agreement with Easterseals Nebraska. Jason was pleased with the services available at Easterseals Nebraska, and he decided to work with them. Easterseals Nebraska was there to answer his lingering questions about disability benefits and work. They helped him stay organized and communicate with Social Security.

"I think the Partnership Plus [arrangement] gave Jason reassurance that he would have someone he could talk to who is familiar with his case and is in his corner. Having that ongoing support helped alleviate some of the anxiety he would have had without an advocate."

- Karen, Ticket to Work Coordinator at Easterseals Nebraska

"Easterseals Nebraska became familiar with my case," Jason recalls. "They were there to answer my questions and if they didn't know the answer right away, they found it. All of my concerns about work were addressed."

"It's critical to have benefits counseling available so that people make informed decisions about working," says Mark, Director of Jason's State VR agency. "We don't have that expertise. Easterseals does. Partnering with ENs allows us to build off the strengths of other providers to offer better quality services and help our clients succeed."

Putting it all Together

With support from their employment teams, both Amy and Jason continue to succeed at work. Partnership Plus sets people up for success by offering ongoing support at each step toward greater financial independence.

Are you ready to build your employment team? Here are six actions you can take right now to learn more about the Ticket Program and other Social Security Work Incentives:

  1. Call the Ticket to Work Help Line to get answers to your questions about Ticket to Work and other Work Incentives, working while you're receiving benefits and reporting your wages to Social Security. You can reach the Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
  2. Read more about Social Security Work Incentives available to you.
  3. Read our Frequently Asked Questions about the Ticket Program.
  4. View success stories of beneficiaries who have used the Ticket Program to improve their lives and achieve financial independence.
  5. Sign up for a free WISE Webinar to learn more about the Ticket Program and other Work Incentives.
  6. Opt in to receive information via text about the Ticket Program by texting the word "TICKET" to 1-571-489-5292. You can opt out at any time.