Podcast iconIn our April podcast, we talked with Robert, a veteran who used Ticket to Work to improve his quality of life through increased earnings and an improved sense of productivity and dignity. 

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Ticket Talk #4: Catching up with Robert

April 2013

Ticket to Work’s success stories feature real people who have successfully used the Ticket to Work program to achieve gainful employment and financial independence. In our April podcast, we talked with Robert, a veteran who used Ticket to Work to improve his quality of life through increased earnings and an improved sense of productivity and dignity. In his story, Robert describes how his service provider, Paralyzed Veterans of America, eased his concerns about making the transition from benefits to employment.

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Opening: You are listening to the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work podcast series. Get answers to your questions, access information and resources, and receive expert advice on Work Incentives and the Ticket to Work program. Interviewer: Ticket to Work’s Success Stories highlight the achievements of jobseekers with disabilities who found their path to a better future with help from Social Security’s Ticket to Work program. These stories feature real people who used their ticket to achieve financial independence through work and provide an “inside look” at their journey with the Ticket program. Through these stories, you can learn about their experiences, their challenges and concerns, and most importantly, their success. We reconnected with some of the people we previously profiled to catch up and to find out where they are now and how they are progressing. Interviewer: Today we are talking with Robert, a veteran, who became disabled after a surgery mishap. Once Robert felt ready to pursue work, he used the Ticket to Work program and Work Incentives to make the transition from disability benefits to financial independence. He works as a National Service Officer for the Paralyzed Veterans of America helping fellow disabled veterans. Hi Robert, thanks for joining us today. Robert: Well thank you. Thank you for having me. Interviewer: It’s been a while since we last talked about your experience with finding work. Can you bring us up to date and tell us how work is going for you? Robert: Well as of today, since I took on my new position as a National Service Officer for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the work experience has been very challenging for me. Um, meaning in a lot of ways, as far as dealing with getting back in the workforce and living a disability at the same time. Um, I had always wondered about that and how it would work out. But after a couple of years of uh, my job under my belt now, I'm pretty well grounded and seated in my position, and it's working well. It's working very well. I've learned some new skills, uh, met a lot of people and I'm very pleased with the work which I'm doing at this time. Interviewer: Well that’s great. Are you doing the same job that you were doing when we last spoke or has anything changed? Robert: Yes I am still doing the same job since we last spoke. The only change that has came about in my job is probably uh, the work volume has increased. Which is a good thing cause I feel very fortunate to be able to help others with disabilities. And I was fortunate that the Ticket to Work program was able to help me land in a job that [is] so rewarding in that manner. Especially uh, being able to be a person living with a condition and able to help others with those same times of conditions. Interviewer: That does sound ideal. That’s fantastic. So what successes or challenges have you experienced in your professional life since using your Ticket? Robert: Well basically uh, I believe some of the challenges for me were the fact of going into, from using my Ticket and going into the type of profession that I went into, it took me from a physical skill type of work to uh, more of an administrative field that uh, made me uh, actually challenge me and my thinking process and my ability to adapt to uh, working with the public. Um, it has been [a] wonderful aspect because I came from a field of volunteering while I was living with my medical condition and being disabled and from that it gave me the idea to help me get the encouragement to want to go back to work. And of course using the Ticket to Work program made that process even more successful and easier for me. But the profession itself um, again it's very rewarding and it's taught me a lot of things that make me want to seek higher and higher goals. Interviewer: That all sounds extremely positive. When you think back to when you were starting the process of returning to work, what were you most worried about? How has that issue turned out and how did you find a resolution to that? Robert: Well I think, I think some of my biggest worries were the fact that uh, how would the medical aspect uh, how would it play a role and allow me to be able to be functional and active on my job daily? Um, how would it interfere with the fact of me just being able to deal with the regular forty hour week, the eight hour day? Um, in a lot of aspects, I think it helped because the more active I became, the less I was actually in the doctor's office and I think that was a good thing for me. And it's continual. A lot of my conditions and things that I still live with today seem to be improving because of the fact that I am active and back to work. So I would say that the Ticket to Work program again, is a major plus to me even health-wise and as long as I'm still living with a disability, at this time. Interviewer: So it actually turned out exactly the opposite of what your concerns were. Robert: Quite naturally, it really did. I mean, um, just wondering was I going to make it through the training and then be able to just make it to the point of being a National Service Officer and uh, be able to continue to climb up the ladder. I’ve been promoted since and uh, I feel like I'm pretty much on my way to uh, just succeeding the maximum of what this job has to offer me. And I plan on spending quite a few years at it, so like I said, I feel very much grounded now and any doubts and worries have totally been abolished. I'm not even worried whatsoever and I feel great now that I'm actually into the job and it has not really affected me medically, the way I thought it would. Interviewer: Well that’s absolutely wonderful to hear. So what is your favorite part of the job? Robert: Well, I think the favorite part of my job is uh, actually seeing the reward of helping someone else. And those rewards come from the benefits we obtain for veterans and we have so many veterans that are in need and use our assistance. I'm just so proud to be one of those who are able to help them and their families and their loved ones and be a part of this organization which I work with for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. And which we provide uh, those needs and we provide for the family to see that the veterans do obtain the quality health care and the benefits they're entitled to. Interviewer: Well that's obviously a very important mission. You mentioned earlier about the impact that working had on your actual physical state. What aspect of working has had the most impact on your life? Robert: Well, I think the biggest impact that working has had on my life is uh, I believe the hours. My hours as a supervisor in my position as a National Service Officer for the Chicago office uh, the hours could vary a lot of time and I'm not really under a set schedule because in most cases as a supervisor, you want to do what it takes to get the job done and a lot of times uh, I worried about you know, is the medical issue going to flare up and keep you from putting the hours in that you need. Dealing with just the little bumps and grinds that you go through sometimes with uh, just doing what the doctors want you to do to kind of keep yourself functional daily and be able to live a happy and well-adjusted life. But, uh, just the opposite again. It actually has, the more I put myself into the job, uh, I actually see myself being able to adjust to that as well and meaning that um, it has [had] no impact on me at all. I really just seemed like I uh, fell right into sync as I started learning more and more about my job and the reward that you get from knowing that you are able to adapt, overcome and achieve those goals, and you're helping other people. It just gives you so much more to want to go on and on and go further. And so, every time I think about the Ticket to Work program, I just say well that's the beginning of it all it opened up the door so. Well, here I am and I'm still at it. Interviewer: It really sounds like it opened up the door to a job you were really meant to do. Robert: Oh, most definitely, I really felt like I um, I had a compassion for wanting to do this type of work. And um, when I, when the ticket was introduced to me again for the second time. The first time I was so leery against it just like a lot of people about wow, you don’t want to take any chances of messing around with your only source of income. But, the second time I was introduced I learned more about the Ticket as well where it took away some of these doubts and fears away. I was um left worried about the fact that if I gave this a try do I put everything on jeopardy and stand a chance of having to start over with Social security. But, instead I learned that there was enough of a security net there from what my counselors were telling me. Um, and found out actually that there was nothing to worry about all. The Ticket to Work program actually followed me through the beginning of my training process and this job. Uh, followed me well after I completed my training and was well grounded in the job position. And they still occasionally check on me today and see that everything is going well. So, I really found out it really wasn’t a worry at all. Interviewer: Yes, that's one of the great things about Ticket to Work -- it connects you with people and resources to help you succeed, even after you're working! So, the Ticket to Work program introduced you to the opportunity to get your job and you continued to receive your Social Security benefits until you were earning enough to make it on your own? Robert: That’s, that’s very much true. I truly am. I’m just so thankful to be back in the work force and being able to feel like I have something to offer to society. And, I’m just not sitting back and um. Sometimes when you’re living off of a fixed income you feel like your life is all based on month by month and living on what to expect for the next month and trying to make ends meet. But, now you can actually plan for things and plan a future. Interviewer: That’s fantastic. So, what has changed in your life outside of work as a result of your employment? Robert: Well, outside of work, for employment wise um. Actually, employment actually helped me outside of work because the people that I meet in my job allows me to do various outreach and has kind of opened me up to be more verbal and be able to meet and greet with people when I was living a lifestyle where I was shielded and sheltered to living with a medical condition that um kept you where you didn’t have much of an interest to want to be sociable like the way you should have been. Interviewer: That’s great. If we were to check in with you again in a year or so, what would you like to be able to tell us about working at that point? Robert: Well in another year or so uh, after working from where I am today I would like to be able to say that uh I am continuously climbing the ladder in my profession. Um, would like to be able to say um I have something to offer others who may be coming into my profession. And definitely hope to be an encouragement to those who are curious or living with a disability who may have doubts about getting into any type profession from my own experiences. To be able to have more and more to offer them. Interviewer: Well I have no doubt that if we did check in with you again in a year, I have no doubt that those things would come true. You’re very inspirational, absolutely. And finally, what advice would you offer to someone who is considering the Ticket to Work program? Robert: Basically if someone is considering the Ticket to Work program, I would um, I would tell them first of all, don’t be afraid to ask the questions that they think that they may have doubts about because, I think that’s what held me back a lot you know, with doubts. You just got to open up and kind of say what’s on your mind. Um, go ahead and speak on what you may think may be a chance. And, don’t worry about it and just find out what the answer is to the unknown because that’s what holds a lot of us back. And, the best advice I think is once you are a part of the Ticket to Work program, is to um, make sure you go after exactly where you feel where your heart is at of something you really believe in. Interviewer: I think that is fantastic advice. Robert, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us to day and sharing your experiences with the program. We wish you the best of luck. I have no doubt that you will continue to set goals and succeed them. Robert: Well, I thank you for having me as well. Interviewer: With support from Ticket to Work, Robert and many more have found their path to a better future. Find yours. Visit our website for more inspiring stories and to learn how Social Security’s Ticket to Work program can help you. Visit w-w-w dot social security dot gov forward slash work, or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at one, eight six six, nine six eight, seven eight four two for voice, or one, eight six six, eight three three, two nine six seven for TTY.