Podcast iconThis Ticket Talk podcast features an interview with Dee Gavaldon, Program Manager of Crossroads Diversified Services, an Employment Network, American Job Center (formally called One-Stop) and AbilityOne program participant. Crossroads was established in 1977 as a Sacramento County mental health program, but today it helps people and young adults with all disabilities. 

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Ticket Talk #6: Employment Support from Crossroads Diversified Services

June 2013

This Ticket Talk podcast features an interview with Dee Gavaldon, Program Manager of Crossroads Diversified Services, an Employment Network, American Job Center (formally called One-Stop) and AbilityOne program participant. Crossroads was established in 1977 as a Sacramento County mental health program, but today it helps people and young adults with all disabilities.

Download audio file (mp3)

Download transcript

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Opening: You are listening to the Social Security'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 find out where they are now and how they are progressing. Interviewer: Today we are talking with Megan. When Megan assigned her Ticket to participate in the Ticket to Work program, she was receiving Social Security Disability Insurance due to a mental illness. With the help of her service provider TransCen, Megan found a job as a Document Control Specialist and with the support of Work Incentives such as the Trial Work Period (TWP) and the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE), Megan achieved financial independence. Hi Megan, thanks for joining us today. Megan: Thanks for having me. Interviewer: It's been awhile since we last talked about your experience with returning to work. Can you bring us up-to-date and tell us how work is going for you? Megan: Work's been going pretty good. Um, I was doing a lot of interesting things and um, unfortunately just recently, the company had to do some layoffs, so I was unfortunately included in the layoffs. But, up until that point I was really having a great time and I was learning a lot of things and it was really great to be back into the workforce. So I'm looking forward to returning again with a new job. Interviewer: Alright, so you're not doing the same job as you were when we last spoke then? Megan: No I'm not [laughter]. Interviewer: Well I'm sorry to hear that. Um, so how are you going about looking for that next good opportunity? Megan: Well, um, I actually ended up picking up Zumba classes. I got my license in that. So I'm doing that as part of the um, you know, something to kind of keep me going until I find a new job, but I actually went back to TransCen and I'm using them to help me find a new job just kind of like when I first started. Interviewer: So you're going back to the folks within the Ticket program that helped you the first time? Megan: Yes Interviewer: And have they been responsive? Megan: Yes. They have been really helpful with helping me making sure that you know, my medical benefits are carrying over and different things like that which is obviously important. But they're also helping me with my resume, looking for new jobs, um, putting me in contact with other people who um, might be able to help me. So it's actually been really beneficial. It's kind of like going back to square one but I know in the end, I'm going to get a job because I've done it before. Interviewer: That’s great. Are you using your Ticket again or is this just through the relationship that you have with TransCen? Megan: No, I am using my Ticket again. Interviewer: The Ticket support network is still there for you and you have the support that you need to get out there and find the next one? Megan: Yes. Interviewer: That's great. So before this most recent unfortunate round of layoffs, what successes or challenges did you experience in your professional life since using your Ticket? Megan: A lot of the great successes that I learned was actually rebuilding my confidence by joining the workforce um, and knowing that I always did have support but it was really great to get back out there and to continuously do it. Before I was laid off, it was almost two years that I had been working with this same company after having like, an over two year gap. That was really a great boost to my confidence. I was contributing to the workforce; I was able to pay my bills, so that was really um, a really good feeling. Some of the challenges that I had, was obviously, with anyone, you get into a job and you're like "ah, I don't know if I like it anymore," so some of the challenges were trying to work with my um, boss, and put myself into some other projects and different things like that that I thought would be more interesting. And, she was really receptive to that, so I got a lot of new tasks that actually helped me learn some new types of skills and talents that I can carry on into other stuff that I actually enjoy too, so it was very fun. Interviewer: That's great, that’s great. So when you think back to when you were first starting the process of returning to work, what were you most worried about, and how did that turn out? How did you find a resolution? Megan: Well the thing that I was most worried about was losing my benefits, and once I started working, and then if I did lose my job, that I would be less, kind of, in the lurch, in that, I would have to go through the process of getting my disability restarted all over again. And what I actually learned was that, you know, they give you the Trial Work Period and your disability doesn't end, or your disability insurance doesn't end until um actually a year, because they give you a three months grace period after your nine trial work [period] months. So I could work for nine months and it didn't have to be continuous, all in a row and I could still maintain my benefits, and then there was also the fact that they said once I started the program, you have five years till if you stop making income or if your disability returns, you can go back into the disability program without having to refill out the paper work. So that kind of took a lot of stress off of me. When I entered the workforce, and obviously it's true, because you know, I'm doing it again and it's all happening, it's all the same thing, and I know that I definitely...I can do this, and I'm going to get help to do it. Interviewer: Right so, when you lost your job recently, was it easy then, to start your benefits back up? Or have you not had to do that? Megan: Ah, no, I did start my benefits back up and it was really simply. I just made a phone call to the people at TransCen, and they, um, helped me with some stuff. Interviewer: Well that's great because one of the biggest concerns a lot of folks do have about exploring work again is losing their benefits and having to go through that whole process again and you're speaking from personal experience here that that's not what happens. That the support network is still there. You'll have those financial benefits when and if you need them. Megan: Yes. Interviewer: So Megan, when you were working, what was your favorite part of your job? Megan: Um, my favorite part of my job was actually the different amount of people I got to work with. Because the position that I had was in a biotech company, I got to work with scientists, I got to work with administrative assistants, we had lawyers, we had engineers, so it was like, really nice to work with different people, and I was actually helping them further the different aspects of their job. And what they were trying to put out, so it was a good way to interact with a lot of different people and kind of learn the best way to uh communicate different things, because everyone has what they want to know and what they don't really care about. So it was kind of fun trying to figure it out and you know, make the relationship run smoothly so that they got what they needed and you know, the company could move forward. Interviewer: What aspect of working has had the most impact on your life? Megan: I think the aspect of actually really being able to take care of myself, um, you know, I know that I have money to pay my bills and I have money if I want to go out and get my nails painted, or you know, anything silly like that. It's just the confidence that I can do this and I'm out there working, and not only am I helping myself but I'm helping other people, you know, through my job and you know, though being out there and being able to buy stuff. It's a big cycle. And it's just, everyone is helping everyone. And so, it's nice to actually be a part of that. Interviewer: Megan when we last talked with you, you were big time into ballroom dancing, so how's that going these days? Megan: I actually haven't been able to make it back into ballroom dancing and competing but I've actually kind of transferred it into teaching Zumba classes, so I'm actually a licensed Zumba instructor. So I help other people have fun and dance, so it's kind of the same thing but with a more fitness aspect, and I don't get to wear glittery gowns anymore [laughter]. Interviewer: Yea, I don't think Zumba lends itself to gowns too much. Megan: No, not that much, but I wear some bright colors, so I think I'm still cool. Interviewer: Well that's great. So what has changed in your life outside of work as a result of employment? Megan: I'm definitely more confident overall, but um, I feel much more grounded. I'm able to do a lot more things, um, like hanging out with my friends and trying new things. I actually have been training for a half marathon. I ran my first one in March and I have a second one that I'm doing at the end of this month, so I'm kind of excited about that. And, those are some things that, you know, I would've never have done because sometimes it would be hard to get out of the house, and now it's not hard, I enjoy it. I enjoy meeting new people and having fun, and trying new things. Everything's exciting. Interviewer: Half marathon! Good for you, that's about 13 more miles than I've ever run. [Laughter] So, if we were to check in with you again in a year, what would you like to be able to tell us about working at that point? Megan: Well I would like to definitely say that I obviously have a new job [laughter] but I definitely would like to be able to tell you that I actually was able to hold and take all of the experience that I have from this previous position and find something that I enjoy even more and um, that I'm really making a difference and that I'm helping other people. Um, and just to show how much this program in itself has helped me and has continued to help me. Obviously it was unfortunate to have been laid off, but you know, I think it's a good experience because I know for a fact they’re is still there and I can come back and that they're going to help me do it again. And so, I'd like to be able to say that I don't need to do it again and that I have an awesome job and I'm really enjoying it. Interviewer: Well I have no doubt if we did check in with you again in another year that this would all come true because your attitude and your spirit is so strong, I just can't see any of that not happening. Megan: Thank you. Interviewer: Megan, finally, what advice would you offer to someone who is considering the Ticket to Work program? Megan: I would tell anyone to just do it. Don't look back, you know, you have nothing to lose because if you can't make it the first time, there's nothing that stops you from trying, there’s no "three strikes, you're out." You can just keep going and each time it's going to get better. Each time you're going to learn, you know, what it is, sometimes the first job is not the best fit. But you can get out there and make the effort and you can actually use that to help you feel good about yourself. And you can get out there and do so many things and help so many other people and be able to actually support yourself. And, I think that's a wonderful thing. That you know, you don't have to be afraid that you won't be able to support yourself at some point because they're always going to be there to help you and to make sure that you stay on your feet and you continue to be a, you know, fully contributing member of society, which is what everyone wants. Interviewer: Well I think that's great advice and spoken from the heart like someone who’s been there and experienced it, so that's wonderful. Well those are all the questions we have today, Megan. We really appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with the Ticket to Work program and your employment and more. We wish you the best of luck in your new search. But it sounds like you really have a strong positive attitude about it, and that's fantastic. Megan: Thank you so much. Interviewer: Megan, thank you for speaking with me today. I appreciate you sharing some of your experiences with the Ticket to Work program, employment and more. Currently, Megan is in the third year of her extended period of eligibility (EPE). EPE is a Work Incentive that provides 36 consecutive months of continued eligibility for Social Security benefits while you work. During the 36 month re-entitlement period, Megan receives benefits for any month her earnings or work activities are below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as long as she continues to have a disabling impairment. Her benefits are suspended for those months when her earnings are over the Substantial Gainful Activity level. When Megan learned that the company she was working for dissolved her department and she was laid off, she applied to have her benefits reinstated and they were. This is one of the safety nets offered by the Ticket to Work program and Work Incentives. You can learn more about Work Incentives through our March 2013 Ticket Talk podcast episode on common Work Incentives. This podcast is available on our website. With support from Ticket to Work, Megan and many more have found their path to a better future. Find yours. Visit our website for more inspiring stories and learn how Social Security's Ticket to Work program can help you. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/work or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 1- 866-833-2967(TTY).