Manny is a bright 23-year-old who has had several health problems in recent years that have made it difficult for him to work or go to school regularly. He would like to work as a computer programmer but needs training. He’s never really done a “job search” and is a bit intimidated by the idea of it. Where should he look for jobs? What should he include in his resume? How can he discuss his health issues in an interview?

He goes to lunch with his friend Jessica and the two begin talking about his concerns. Jessica is a few years older than Manny. She also has a physical disability. She knows what Manny is going through—she remembers how overwhelmed she felt when she began looking for a job. She suggests Manny look into the Ticket to Work program.

“Ticket to Work. I’ve heard of that,” says Manny. “I think I got something in the mail from them a year or two ago. What’s the program all about?”

“Well, the Ticket to Work Program is designed to help people with disabilities achieve employment goals,” says Jessica. “It provides all sorts of employment services like training, job counseling, and job referrals.”

“No kidding,” says Manny. “How do I find out if I’m eligible for it?”

“You should call it,” says Jessica. “And it’s your lucky day, Manny. I happen to have a business card with their phone number right here. It is 1-866-968-7842.”

“Very cool,” says Manny. “Do you think I’ll qualify?”

“Probably. The program is for Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities, aged 18 to 64. Do you receive SSI or SSDI?”

“Yeah, I receive an SSI payment every month,” says Manny.

“Sounds like you’ll qualify,” says Jessica. “You should call Maximus just to be sure.”

“Okay, I will,” says Manny. “So tell me about this program. What will it do for me?”

“Well, the Ticket to Work program addresses the kind of things you say you’re worried about—getting job training, finding work, even writing a resume.” says Jessica. “After you find out if you qualify, you have to get hooked up with an Employment Network or the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR).”

“What’s the difference between those two?”

“They both serve the same basic purpose under the Ticket program: they provide services to help you find work. Organizations like job placement agencies, independent living centers, and employers can be Employment Networks, or ENs. DOR is a state agency that helps people with disabilities become employed. I worked with an EN myself, but I know others who have worked with the Department of Rehabilitation. Who you work with kind of depends on the services you need.”

“Okay,” says Manny. “So how did the EN help you with your career?”

“They helped with everything. They provided some of the basic computer training I needed. They sent me job listings via email. They helped me write my resume and posted it on their website,” says Jessica. “I’ve heard the services vary from EN to EN, so you should be sure to research your options carefully. In your case it would be important to find one that can help you to get training in computer programming. I think the Department of Rehabilitation can also help with training.”

“That would be great,” says Manny.

“If you work with an EN, you and your EN will draft an Individual Work Plan that outlines your employment goals and the services the EN is going to provide. If you work with the Department of Rehabilitation, you’ll draft something similar called an Individual Plan for Employment. In order to keep your Ticket ‘active,’ you have to make sufficient timely progress towards your employment goal,” says Jessica. “One of the main benefits of the Ticket program is that as long as you’re making adequate timely progress, Social Security will suspend medical Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs).”

“Why is that so important?”

“Well, when Social Security conducts a medical CDR, they determine whether or not you still qualify as medically disabled by their definition. If they determine you are no longer disabled, you will lose all your Social Security benefits.”

“Really?” says Manny.

“Yeah. So the fact that CDRs are suspended if you’re making progress under your Ticket plan is a real perk,” says Jessica.

“How do they determine if you’re making adequate timely progress?” Manny asks.

“Well, Maximus reviews your progress every 12 months. You need to work for a certain number of months earning a certain amount each year. Or if you’re in school, you need to complete enough courses in the year,” says Jessica.

“That sounds a little scary,” says Manny.

“It’s not too hard. In the first year you only need to work three months out of the year and make over $880 in those months. You can work more if you want to. Or you can be in school 60% of the time. I was able to do it – by the third year I was working full time. It was so nice to be earning my own money and supporting myself.”

“Sounds fantastic,” says Manny. “I want to get involved right now. I’m going to call Maximus to make sure I qualify.”

“That’s a good idea,” says Jessica. “I hope the program works as well for you as it did for me. Good luck!”