What is the Ticket to Work program? How does it help me go to work?
Ticket to Work connects you with FREE employment services to help you decide if working is right for you, prepare for work, find a job, or maintain success while you are working. If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits, and are age 18 through 64, you can use the Ticket to Work program to obtain services that can help you find a job. These services can help you prepare for work and enter and maintain employment. Organizations called Employment Networks (ENs) and State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies provide these services at no cost to you. Taking part in the Ticket to Work program is voluntary. The goal of the Ticket to Work program is to help you become self-sufficient and achieve financial independence through work.
Do I need to have the paper Ticket sent to me by Social Security in order to participate in the Ticket to Work program?
No, you do not need to have the paper Ticket to start working with an approved provider of vocational services and supports called an Employment Network (EN). The EN you select can contact the Ticket Program Manager to verify your eligibility to participate in the program.
When will SSA review my disability if I participate in the Ticket to Work Program?
Social Security will not perform a medical "Continuing Disability Review" to determine whether you continue to have a disability while you are participating in the Ticket to Work Program, including receiving services from the State Vocational Rehabilitation agency, and progressing towards your employment goal.
Can I participate in the Ticket Program and get services from my State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency?
Yes. State VR agencies provide a wide variety of services and supports to help people with disabilities return to work, enter a new line of work, or enter the workplace for the first time.
Can I work part-time without losing my disability benefits?
Yes, you can. The Social Security Administration gives you a 9-month Trial Work Period, during which you can earn an unlimited monthly amount, and keep your cash benefits. The 9 months do not have to be in a row.
But once you have used up your 9 trial work months—you will LOSE your SSDI cash benefit if you earn MORE than $1,470 ($2,460 if you are blind) in a month (during 2023). That is the “Substantial Gainful Activity” amount (SGA). However, if your earnings stay under this amount, you’ll keep your health insurance and your monthly cash payment. Some people stay under the SGA limit and work part-time until they hit retirement age. SSA understands that part-time work is all some beneficiaries might be able to do. Even with part-time work, you will pay taxes on your earnings, and help the government pay for Social Security benefits.
To learn more about the monthly limit on earnings which go up slightly every year, just enter “Substantial Gainful Activity” into your search engine. Or read the SSA Red Book section on Work Incentives.
If you have a complex situation and feel you need more help, there are dozens of Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) programs around the U.S. Use this search tool to find the closest benefits counselor to you. These experts are funded by the SSA. Their goal is to assist you in making informed choices about work.
How can I test my ability to work without losing my SSDI benefits?
The Trial Work Period (TWP) allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months. During your TWP, you will receive full Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits regardless of how high your earnings might be as long as you report your work activity and you have a disabling impairment.
Will the amount of my monthly SSDI benefit change or will payments stop altogether?
Your SSDI payments will not stop. How much you can earn before it will affect the amount of your monthly benefit will vary for each individual. Once you become disabled and start working, you are given 9 trial work months (TWP) to work and earn any amount of wages and it will not affect your disability check. Once you have used all your 9 months (TWP), the 1st month after that in which you earn over $1470 (Substantial Gainful Activity) will start your 3-month Grace Period. After your Grace Period, if you are still earning over $1470 per month, it is at that point in which you will lose your SSDI check. However, if at any point in the next 36 months (Extended Period of Eligibility) you stop making over $1470 per month, you can easily get your SSDI check back. This is one of the safety nets SSA has put in place for you so you can attempt returning to work!
Will the amount of my monthly SSI benefit change or stop?
Once you start working your SSI check will be reduced. The first $65 of the wages is not countable and there is a $20 general income exclusion, but after that the remainder of countable earned income is divided by 2. So, the more you work, the less money you will receive from SSI.
Will I lose my Medicare eligibility?
No. As long as you continue to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit payments, you will continue to remain eligible for the same medical coverage. There are also Work Incentives that allow you to continue your medical coverage once you begin earning enough that you stop receiving SSDI payments. If you currently receive medical coverage through Medicare, you can continue to be eligible for coverage for at least 93 months after the last month of your Trial Work Period.
Will I lose my Medicaid Coverage?
No. As long as you continue to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you will continue to remain eligible for the same medical coverage.
If you currently receive Medicaid, you might be eligible to continue to receive Medicaid even after you stop receiving SSI benefits due to work. Your coverage might be extended in two ways. First, you might be eligible through a Work Incentives created by Section 1619(b) of the Social Security Act. You need to meet certain other requirements to qualify for this Work Incentives. You can find more information regarding this program here.
What are my responsibilities to SSA when I return to work?
You or your representative must promptly report any changes in work activity. You can report changes in your work activity by phone, fax, mail, in person or by using your My Social Security account online. Call 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, or you may call, visit, or write your local Social Security office. You can find your local office by going to www.socialsecurity.gov/locator.
How does taking part in the Ticket to Work program affect medical reviews of my disability?
SSA cannot perform a medical "Continuing Disability Review" (CDR) to determine whether you continue to have a disability while you are participating in the Ticket to Work Program, so long as you are making progress toward self-sufficiency while your ticket is “Assigned”. A Timely Progress Review (TPR) is Social Security’s way to track your progress under the Ticket to Work Program and is conducted about every 12-month period of Ticket use to determine if beneficiaries are making the expected progress toward self-sufficiency. A pass decision extends protection from a CDR for about another 12 months. You can learn more about those requirements here.
If you do successfully return to work and are making enough income to lose your entitlement to SSDI and SSI benefits and payments, Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) is a safety net. If your cash payments ended because of your work and earnings, and you stop work within five years of when your benefits ended, you may be able to have your benefits started again right away through a request for EXR. You can read more on EXR eligibility and the initial reinstatement period (IRP) on page 29 of the SSA Red Book.
If my benefits stop due to my earnings, but then I can no longer work due to my disability, do I have to reapply for benefits all over again?
Not necessarily. If your benefits stop because of your work and earnings, and then you have to stop working because of your disability, you may not have to reapply for benefits all over again. That’s because of two Work Incentives: the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) and Expedited Reinstatement (EXR).
If you receive SSDI and begin working, but then must stop working or work less, you can still receive your benefits any month in which your earnings drop below a certain amount. Learn more about EPE here.
EXR allows you to request that your SSDI or SSI benefits start again, but you must make this request within five years from the month your benefits stopped. Under EXR, you do not have to complete a new application. In addition, you can receive up to six months of temporary cash benefits, and Medicare and/or Medicaid if eligible, while Social Security reviews your request.
What is the maximum number of hours in a week that I can work if I am receiving a disability check?
The answer depends on how much is actually earned in monthly gross wages, not on the number of hours worked. Also, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs have different ways to calculate the gross wages and how it might affect benefits.
What is the purpose of the Social Security Administration (SSA) Red Book?
The Red Book is a summary guide to employment supports for people with disabilities under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Programs. Congress intended the employment support provisions to provide you with the assistance you need to move from benefit dependency to independence. Employment supports help you to enter, re-enter, or stay in the workforce by protecting your eligibility for cash payments and/or health care until you achieve this goal.
How do I contact Social Security?
SSA’s internet site, Social Security Online, is located at www.socialsecurity.gov. Most Social Security publications and other public information materials are available on this site.
Links that may be of interest to the community serving people with disabilities:
www.socialsecurity.gov/disability — This site provides comprehensive information on our disability benefits programs.
choosework.ssa.gov — This site provides information on our Ticket to Work program.
For questions about work incentives and to find out more about our Ticket to Work Program, please call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY), between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. You may also contact by email at email@example.com.
For general Social Security inquiries, call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Find Your Local Office
If you have a problem or question, try our toll-free telephone number first. Our telephone representatives will either help you or put you in contact with your local office, if needed. Many local telephone directories list local offices under “Social Security.”
If you have internet access, you can find your local office by going to the Social Security Office Locator on our website, Social Security Online, at www.socialsecurity.gov/locator. Enter your postal ZIP code to get the address, telephone number, and directions to your local office.
If you are unable to resolve a problem after calling the toll-free telephone number or after contacting your local office, you may write to the Office of Public Inquiries:
Social Security Administration
Office of Public Inquiries
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235-6401
Additional Resources For SSDI and SSI Beneficiaries
Social Security Administration Resources:
SSA Red Book
SSA Ticket to Work FAQ
Your Ticket to Work
Your Ticket to Work: What You Need to Know to Keep it Working For You
Working While Disabled: How We Can Help
Debunking the Three Biggest Myths about Disability Benefits and Work
Impairment-Related Work Expenses
SSA Work Incentives
Work Without Limits:
SSDI Benefits & Related Work Incentives
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development:
Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) Work Incentives