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The Right Way to Return to Work After a Disability

July 23, 2021 Disability

The Social Security Disability program provides cash benefits for individuals who suffer a disability that prevents them (or is expected to prevent them) from returning to work for at least 12 months. While many disability benefits recipients suffer lifelong or terminal disabilities, others recover from their disabilities — if not completely, then at least enough to return to near-normalcy. But benefits recipients must be careful about deciding to return to work, as doing so can result in a loss of benefits. Luckily, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a program designed to help disability benefits recipients slowly get back on their feet called Ticket to Work, as our Baltimore SSD attorney explains below. 

What Is Ticket to Work? 

Ticket to Work is a program that helps disability benefits recipients eventually reenter the workforce when they are ready to do so without immediately losing their benefits. It provides free employment counseling to help recipients decide whether they are ready to return to work, prepare for work, and find a job. Everyone between the ages of 18 and 64 is eligible for participation in the program, and eligibility begins once the recipient begins receiving his or her benefits. 

How Does it Work? 

Eligible participants are issued a “ticket” (not an actual, physical ticket) that they may then assign to an employment service provider that contracts with the SSA to provide job support services. The participant and the service provider then develop a plan that eventually will end with the participant reentering the workforce at a certain pay rate or completing educational or training requirements. Once enrolled in the program, participants are expected to make “timely progress” toward: 

  • Receiving education or training necessary to succeed in a career
  • Becoming and staying employed
  • Reducing dependence on Social Security Disability payments
  • Earning enough to no longer need cash benefits

The eventual goal of the program is to promote increased self-sufficiency and greater independence through work for Social Security Disability benefits recipients. 

Won’t I Lose My Benefits if I Start Working?

Not necessarily, so long as you continually make progress toward your vocational goals under Ticket to Work. The program offers several work incentives that allow benefits recipients to continue to receive benefits while they transition to the workforce. These are: 

  • Trial Work Period: Allows participants to test their ability to work for at least nine months, during which time they will continue to receive the full amount of their disability benefits no matter how much they earn
  • Expedited Reinstatement: If a recipient’s benefits stopped because of her earning level, but she is no longer able to work because of a medical condition, allows for reinstatement of benefits without having to complete a new application
  • Protection from Medical Continuing Disability Review: This prevents the SSA from conducting a Continuing Disability Review while the benefit recipient is participating in the Ticket to Work program. 

Contact a Baltimore SSD Attorney for More Information

If you receive Social Security Disability benefits but think you may be ready to return to work, you should consider speaking to a Baltimore SSD attorney who can help you evaluate your options. For more information, please contact attorney Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.