Andy in tire room at workAs Andy prepared to finish high school, he and his family considered his career options and realized there were programs in place to help him enter the workforce. With the help of his high school transition team, his Ticket to Work employment team and Project SEARCH, Andy found a job he loves. Learn how they all worked together to help Andy succeed.


Andy's Circle of Support

Published in 2022

Andy in tire room at workAndy is one of seven million Americans born with an intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD). Like other neuro-developmental conditions, I/DD can interfere with a person's ability to communicate, problem-solve, manage tasks, control impulses, regulate emotions and socialize. Ever since he can remember, he has had to work harder than his peers for the outcomes he wanted. Andy didn't know how his symptoms might interfere with his job prospects and independence over time.

Young people with learning differences can benefit from mentors who show them the value of their contributions, and Andy has been fortunate in his circle of support. Service providers from multiple employment programs joined forces with Andy's family and employer to help him identify and develop his talents. Their professional guidance, sustained collaboration, and a vested interest in his success all contributed to his personal and professional growth. As a result, Andy is happier and more self-reliant.

A Ticket to Work

One year before Andy finished high school, he and his family learned about support programs that help people with disabilities enter the workforce. His school transition team introduced Andy and his family to Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) Program and to Project SEARCH.

Ticket to Work is a free and voluntary program that supports career development for people with disabilities who want to work. Adults ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI and/or SSI) qualify. Through the Ticket Program, service providers (like the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency in Andy's state) offer a variety of employment support services. Ticket Program participants may also choose to work with providers known as Employment Networks (EN), which sometimes specialize in certain services or may serve specific populations. The program's goal is to help each participant find their path to financial stability by actively supporting their career goals.

Andy connected with Ticket to Work service providers that served his area. Maryland's State VR agency (VR), an EN called Full Circle Employment Solutions (Full Circle) and their community partners worked like a tag team to offer the support Andy needed at each step along his path to sustained employment. It began with assessment and counseling, moved to employment goals and an Individual Work Plan, continued with guidance through work opportunities and training, and followed through with on-site coaching to help him succeed on the job.

How would employment affect Andy's benefits?

Because of his developmental disability, Andy received SSI and Medicaid benefits after his 18th birthday. As he considered employment, Andy and his family needed to first understand how working would affect these disability benefits.

To get answers to those questions, Andy's VR counselor connected the family with Full Circle, an EN with a Benefits Counselor on staff. Benefits Counselors are professionals specially qualified to explain the Social Security rules governing employment and benefits.

These rules, known as Work Incentives, make it easier for adults with disabilities to gain work experience while continuing to receive all or part of their disability benefits. For example, Andy was relieved to learn that after he was employed, his Medicaid coverage could continue, even if his earnings from work become too high for an SSI payment. This Work Incentive, known as Medicaid While Working (or Section 1619b), allowed Andy to focus on pursuing employment without worrying about the sudden loss of his healthcare coverage or related support benefits. He also found out that if he needs to stop working, he may qualify for Expedited Reinstatement, a Work Incentive that might allow him to receive benefits again without filing a new application.

Because each person's circumstances are unique, jobseekers who receive Social Security disability benefits and Medicaid or Medicare are encouraged to consult a Benefits Counselor while exploring employment. With a better understanding of how work would affect his benefits, Andy felt ready to pursue employment.

Landing the Job

Ticket to Work service providers that are well-connected in the communities they serve put a strong, diversified force behind helping clients realize their work goals. Andy's EN works closely with Seeking Employment, Equality & Community (SEEC), a community partner that specializes in helping young people with disabilities transition from high school into the workforce. SEEC collaborated with the school system and connected Andy with Project SEARCH, a school-to-work training program for young adults with developmental disabilities. Project SEARCH helps students learn and practice job skills in a year-long internship designed to prepare them for competitive employment. Participants receive a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training at a worksite. At the end of the year, some Project SEARCH participants like Andy, whose employer felt he was a great fit, are offered jobs at their internship site.

SEEC and Project SEARCH recognized Andy's particular interest in cars and trucks, so they placed him at job sites where he would have an opportunity to work with vehicles. As an intern with Montgomery County Parks Department Fleet Management Services, Andy brought this enthusiasm to work. He was immediately engaged in learning to help Parks Department mechanics keep their vehicles in working condition. Andy began as a steward of vehicle parts, responsible for keeping them well-organized and clean. His positive attitude and determination to be helpful were infectious, and by the end of the year, his role in the department was expanding.

When Andy started his internship, Full Circle passed the support baton to SEEC, who provides on-site job coaching to workers with developmental disabilities that continue to need assistance after they have found employment. SEEC's coaches work with trainees like Andy on soft skills and problem-solving, while they meet with coworkers and supervisors to cultivate natural support in the workplace.

On the job

Andy at work deskAndy's coworkers collaborated with SEEC and Andy to create a setting that promotes growth for everyone. This team is vested in and values his contributions. The result has been Andy's tireless commitment to learning and a work ethic that is valuable for the entire group.

"I like going to work every day at the Parks Department," Andy says. "I am proud to be part of this team. My co-workers are helpful and nice… [and] I like getting a paycheck!"

According to Bob Miller, the Fleet Services Supervisor, Andy has helped improve safety and morale in the workshop. "We rely on him to support our maintenance and repair programs," Miller explains. "Andy is a positive influence on us all here. We like his great attitude and his high energy level."

Andy's 10-year anniversary with the parks department is coming up. A career in local government has advanced his personal growth in many ways. He has better self-confidence, feels more self-reliant, and has a sense of belonging. Family members also observed marked improvements in his social energy and communication skills.

"Andy takes great pride in being part of the [Parks Department] team," his mother Jean explains. "He enjoys earning his own money, going to lunch with coworkers, and knowing that others rely on him. Seeing him grow and take on more responsibility has been so satisfying!"

"We are fortunate to have programs like Ticket to Work and Project SEARCH," she continues. "These professionals have helped Andy grow into the workforce and the self-determination that goes with it. Having a sense of purpose and feeling more independent are things he has always wanted. Our family is grateful to see Andy achieving his goals."

With the right support, Andy is finding his path to a better future. Find yours!
To learn more, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY),
or visit