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Understanding the Ticket To Work program for SSD/SSI recipients

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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For many recipients of Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), one question looms large: When to go back to work? Is it even worth attempting? How can you navigate that complex decision without impacting your benefits?

One answer is Ticket To Work, a voluntary program for those who want to test the waters of returning to work. A big advantage? You can try it without jeopardizing your benefits.

How it works

Participants in the Ticket To Work program can pursue job placement, career counseling and training through a local Employment Network or state vocational rehabilitation agency. Social Security picks up the tabs for these services, so it’s free of charge for participants. The process involves setting vocational goals and meeting individualized milestones to succeed in the workforce.

Trial Work Periods

For SSD recipients, the program offers a trial work period (TWP) during which you can work while still receiving full benefits. In essence, income limits are suspended during this period. Recipients are entitled to 9 months of TWP during a 60-month (5-year) period. (Note that the rules are different for SSI recipients.)

However, you must report your earnings and continue to meet the definition of a disability (although Continuing Disability Reviews are also suspended during your participation in the program).

After the trial period

If you decide to continue working, you can still get benefits as long as your income and hours are under a certain threshold. Even if you exceed those limits and lose your benefits, you can apply for reinstatement within a certain timeframe. You don’t have to start from scratch.

SSD and SSI participants are also entitled to an extended period of Medicare/Medicaid coverage, even after the Trial Work Period ends.

Learn more about the nuances of working while on disability benefits.