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The Ticket To Work Program: Well Intentioned, But Not Perfect

Updated June 30, 2017

The Ticket To Work Program of the Social Security Administration is well intentioned, but not perfect. Learn how to make it work for you.

The program claims to help you go to work, get a good job that may lead to a career, save more money, and become financially independent, all while keeping your health coverage.

Many on Disability would rather be making their own way financially and contributing positively to society instead of being a burden on it.

Ticket to Work, a free and voluntary program, gives beneficiaries real choices that can help them create and lead better lives. There are good reasons to consider participating in the program.

It connects you with free employment services to help you:

  • decide if working is right for you
  • prepare for work
  • find a job
  • maintain success while you are working

If you choose to participate, you will receive services such as:

  • career counseling
  • vocational rehabilitation
  • job placement and training from SSA-authorized Ticket to Work service providers called Employment Networks or ENs

The Social Security Administration says:

"The service provider you choose will serve as an important part of your 'employment team' that will help you on your journey to financial independence."

The financial independence statement is hopeful if not misleading. Regardless of that you should learn as much as you can about the program. So first, do you qualify?

Who Qualifies?


All those age 18 through 64 who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because of their disability are eligible for the Ticket to Work program. Participation is free and voluntary.

You don't actually get a paper "Ticket" in the mail, and you don't need a paper Ticket to participate. Your eligibility will be verified by the service provider that you choose to work with.

How to Get Started

If you decide to participate, call the Ticket to Work Program Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 866-833-2967 (TTY) to verify your eligibility.

Customer service representatives will explain how the program works, answer any questions and address any concerns you might have.

They can also mail you a list of service providers. There's an alternative to getting paper in the mail; you can go online and build your own customized list.

Next you decide which service provider is right for you. You may work with either an Employment Network or your state Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, according to your needs.

You may also receive services from your Vocational Rehabilitation Agency and then receive ongoing services from an Employment Network.

Some ENs are also part of a state's public workforce system. These workforce ENs provide access to additional employment support services including training programs and special programs for youth in transition and veterans.

Ticket to Work Program participants who assign their Ticket to a workforce EN will either work with a workforce EN directly or via other providers in the workforce system, including American Job Centers.

You work together with your service provider to develop a plan to help you reach your work goals. Your employment team will then help you make progress towards those goals.

Ideally, you'll live a more financially independent future.

Sounds Good. Any Downside?

There's no real downside per se, because just enrolling in and learning about the Ticket To Work Program is useful.

Here's the reality though.

Of the 50,000,000 Americans on Disability, only 50,000 (0.1%) have succeeded in becoming no longer dependent on it, so chances are very slim of anyone doing it.

Total financial independence might not be realistic, but supplementing your SSDI and SSI income is very realistic.

The thing is, do you really want to earn extra income while participating in the Ticket To Work Program? There are downsides to that.

You will be monitored by the Program. In return for the services you receive, you pledge to Social Security that you will take specific steps within specific timeframes set by Social Security to:

  • Work at a specified earnings level or,
  • Complete certain educational or training requirements.

Taking the agreed-upon steps toward employment within Social Security's timeframes is called making "timely progress" towards:

  • Receiving the education and training you need to succeed at work and your long-term career
  • Becoming and staying employed
  • Reducing your dependence on SSDI or SSI payments
  • Earning your way off cash benefits, if possible

Your reward for making "timely progress" is that you get closer to a more financially independent life.

What are alternatives to the Ticket To Work Program?

Most visitors to this site simply want to increase their income, mainly to deal with their medically induced ongoing debt.

They don't really care whether it's through the Ticket To Work Program or not. Their attitude is, "Show me the money!"

Here are some great proven options to explore in the context of working while being on Disability:

Ultimately, your best option is to get our free help in finding all the benefits you're eligible for. This includes things like the Ticket To Work Program. So...

Get Your Free Help Guide

When you click that link above, you'll be able to access to our free Disability Help Guide, which takes you step by step through the process of getting help.

You have to make an effort of course, but it will be worth it in the end. At least that is what these folks say.