If you are well enough to try going back to work, you have the option to either find a job on your own or join a Ticket to Work program that can give you extra help with transitioning back to work.
Extra help sounds great right? Not so fast. We have heard from many readers who tried Ticket to Work and wound up unhappy in the end.
Deciding whether to join Ticket to Work is a personal choice. There is no wrong or right answer. Below are some of the situations our readers encountered that may be helpful to understand in making the choice.
Good and Bad
The Ticket to Work program is designed to help people get off disability and go back to work. If your condition has recovered, and you are ready to transition off benefits, then your goal is the same as their goal.
On the other hand, if you are still disabled and need to work part time and stay on disability, it’s a good idea to learn more about Ticket to Work before deciding your next step.
Common Ticket to Work Myths
“If I want to work, I have to use Ticket To Work”
Not true. You do not need Ticket to Work! You can just go get a job on your own! Social Security has many rules that allow people on disability to work part time: How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble
“Ticket to Work program is here to help me work part time and stay on disability”
Also not true. Ticket to Work programs are not designed to help you work and be on disability. They are designed to get you back to work and off disability.
“This program will protect me from medical reviews.”
True for some people. While you are in the Ticket to Work program you are protected from medical reviews. But there is a catch:
To be in Ticket to Work, you have to work or be in school a certain amount. Every year, the amount goes up. When someone can’t keep up with the requirements, they get kicked out and… wham!… they may get hit with a medical review soon after.
“My caseworker wants what is best for me. That’s her job”
The goal of these programs is to get you off disability. That is her job. She may also be a nice person who wants what is best for you. If she is, that’s great.
If you go back to work and work enough, Social Security will give your State Vocational Rehab program $15,000. They will give your Ticket to Work program $24,000. The only way for them to get the full amount is for you to work so much that your disability check stops.
The Social Security policy on reimbursements explains it this way: “The services must result in the individual’s return to work for at least nine continuous months at a substantial earnings level, which is referred to as substantial gainful activity.” Let’s make sure that was clear: If you stop getting disability, they get more money.
“My caseworker in this program is my friend”
She may be your friend, but she is also writing down things about you in her files. Social Security may review these files during your medical reviews.
This causes problems for some people. Many people want to “put their best foot forward” when they try to go back to work. They want to say good things about themselves. They want to think positive thoughts. They want to prove what they can do. They want to get a good job. They want someone to hire them.
They aren’t focusing on being honest about every thing that is wrong with them and all the problems they have with working and all their limitations. They leave that part out.
This means the files from your Ticket to Work program may not wind up being an accurate description of your actual work ability. This can cause a problem.
“I am following all the rules, so everything will be OK.”
Social Security has many different work incentives, such as PASS, Trial Work Periods, and Impairment Related Work Expenses. Work incentives can certainly help you a lot. But just because you are following all the rules doesn’t mean you will have no problems during disability medical reviews. During reviews Social Security will check to see if your work indicates that your condition has improved.
“I’m earning under SGA so I won’t have any problems”
Sometimes true. Learn more about: How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble
“I was in Ticket to Work for a year. Then I got pregnant and had medical complications and had to take a leave from work. I got kicked out of the Ticket to Work program because I wasn’t working anymore.
“Two months later, I got a disability review. I thought it was safe to try working because people in Ticket to Work didn’t get reviewed. I was totally unprepared. Then I got a letter saying Social Security decided I wasn’t disabled anymore, and I was losing my disability check.
“I appealed and filed a form so that I would keep getting my check during the appeal. All my income stopped. I kept calling and saying “Why did my check stop? I sent the form for it to continue?” and they said “I don’t know.” I had no way to pay rent. My 84-year-old grandmother to take me in. I couldn’t afford to buy anything, not even tampons.
“I sent in more forms and records to show Social Security that I was not working anymore and I was still disabled. After four months, I finally got approved again. Then they sent my case to quality review and it took another month.
“I wrote to my congressperson and they helped me finally get my check released. In the end, I got backpay and got my disability check back. Ticket to Work was not what I thought it would be.”
💮 If you want help figuring out your benefits, you can try contacting a Centers for Independent Living in your area and ask if they can connect you with someone who can advise you on working and benefits.
💮 You can also get benefits counseling through Work Incentives Planning Assistance programs. Note: Many work incentive programs are also Ticket to Work programs.
💮 Disability Benefits 101 – Great information on working while receiving disability benefits in Alaska, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio
What Do You Think?
Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.
Updated May 2019. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: