Thursday, September 29, 2011

Take Control and Build Your Future with Ticket to Work

By Bob Williams, Associate Commissioner
Office of Employment Support Programs, Social Security Administration

Next week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Designated by the U.S. Congress in 1990, activities and efforts to raise awareness about mental illness are planned for national and local communities, including efforts to promote awareness about the importance of work for all Americans, including employment for those living with mental illness.

The numbers are striking. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in four adults in this country experiences mental illness in a given year. This figure translates to 57 million Americans. Serious mental illnessis the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15-44. My agency provides support to approximately 2.3 million people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness; they are the largest and most rapidly expanding subgroup of program beneficiaries. In 2010, nearly one out of every five working-age adults who were awarded benefits qualified because of a mental illness. In addition to their monthly cash benefit, all are eligible to participate in a Social Security-sponsored program, called Ticket to Work.

Why Work?

Choosing to work means earning money and, eventually, becoming financially independent. Having more money enables people to make choices and to pursue goals that simply aren’t possible living on disability benefits. The Ticket to Work program is here to help people with disabilities find good jobs, good careers and better self-supporting futures! As a secondary advantage, for many people, work means boosting self-esteem, meeting new people, and giving back to their community. The path to employment leads to success, and that success builds, allowing individuals to gain confidence and transform their lives. The Ticket to Work program, along with other Work Incentives, offers a number of features that can help individuals with mental illness choose to work. For example, features such as continuation of Medicare/Medicaid coverage and expedited reinstatement (for those who qualify) can ease the concerns of people who may be considering entry or re-entry into the workforce.

How It Works

All Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities who are between the ages 18-64 qualify for these free and voluntary programs. Social Security works with more than 1,200 rehabilitation and employment service providers across the country.These organizations provide support to beneficiaries with career counseling, job search assistance, vocational rehabilitation and training. Many of these organizations offer services especially for individuals living with mental illness. For example, some service providers offer peer-to-peer support, crisis intervention and a focus on employable skills-building. According to NAMI, more than 70 percent of employers who have hired individuals with serious mental illness are willing to continue working with rehabilitation programs that place and support those people.

What You Can Do

For more information on Ticket to Work and Work Incentives, to find a service provider near you, or to learn about people who used the program to find work, visit or email us at or call (866) 968-7842 or (866) 833-2967 (TTY/TDD).


Cindy said...

The truth is that Ticket To Work is not available to all Social Security recipients. If the person is now an adult disabled child of a deceased parent and draws Survivor benefits, they are not included in the law and do not have automatic access to federal programs like Medicaid, Ticket to Work, and others. Just because their parent passed away while they were minors, they don't get the same chance at building their future as everyone else who receives Social Security. It's sad.

Hank said...

I'm a ticket holder working on my second ticket, I found my own jobs,and trying very hard to stay in compliance with the procedures. I had to visit my local Social Security office looking for help while I was applying for an appeal of my benefits being deducted,I was told if I stop working I wouldn't have any problem with my benefits, I took my ticket with me and they said they don't know anything about the "ticket to work program".

George Jabol, Social Security Specialist at Michigan Rehabilitation Services said...

Bob Williams' NAMI Blog about the Ticket to Work is uplifting for persons disabled due to mental illness who wish to work, but in failing to be specific about what the Ticket offers, it is also misleading. Unfortunately it perpetuates a prevailing misunderstanding that the Ticket is a panacea which ensures participants will be given jobs and educations and all sorts of goods and services. In fact, all that the Ticket program offers anyone is a temporary exemption from medical reviews. There are many beneficiaries, of course, for whom this incentive is hardly an incentive at all, since they have such severe disabilities that they have nothing to fear from being subjected to medical reviews. And there are those who see the Ticket as a kind of entitlement, and who are disappointed that the program, which seems to offer them so much, actually offers them so little. Bob does mention other several work incentives, including the continuation of health insurance and expedited reinstatement, as being helpful, and indeed many of Social Security's other incentives do provide beneficiaries seeking work with far more significant and tangible assistance than the Ticket program. To tell people, as Bob does in the title of his blog, that they can "take control and build (their) future with (the) Ticket to Work" is to invest the Ticket with far more power and promise than the Ticket to Work program actually delivers. It would be less disillusioning for those aspiring to return to work to describe the Ticket program to them more realistically, in terms of the actually modest advantage it provides to some disabled job seekers. I think we would be instilling more genuine hope in our disabled beneficiaries by giving them realistic expectations, rather than hype, about the ways in which Social Security's work incentives can help them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are lots of promises published by different federal agencies but my experience has taught me not to get my hope up. It seems that these programs keep those involved in them employed. But those of us who have disabilites and want to work still find a great deal of discrimination within the agencies where we seek help.

Anonymous said...

I found Vocational Rehabilitation to have severe prejudices against those with mental illness (depression), women and seniors. It appeared that it prefered white, young men to give monies for education and training. The agencies I experienced were very controlling and very biased.

Laura said...

I'm trying to find information on whether TTW will help with education or vocational placement. I'm interested in a program to become an ultrasound technician. From my own research I've seen there are programs that run anywhere from 8 months to 2 yrs. Any idea if TTW would help me get this training, or if I could go through our local VESID and if they would coordinate with them? Thanks for any info!

Anonymous said...

When I read this "The Ticket to Work program is here to help people with disabilities find good jobs, good careers and better self-supporting futures" I thought the author was a little too positive about what the TTW program can do for people. He needs to pose as a disabled person and talk to someone at ARC. They want you to get employed and they do NOT care whether the job is "good" or "well paying" or fulfilling. They just want you working! The word "career" is NOT in their vocabulary. I believe Congress should pay employers what they are paying all these ENs. Employers receive between 3 and 4 thousand dollars in tax credits for hiring the disabled. Most large employers specifically rule out the mentally ill. This author lives in a dream world NOT the real world.

Anonymous said...

it is really very sad how the state vocational service treat mentallly ill patients, i'm one and they treated me with disrespect, they talked to me like if i was dumb, and they made it seem like i could'nt make up my own mind on what types of jobs and training that i found intrest in. If you don't pick the job that they want to give you in a timely manner they will close out your case unsuccessful everytime, and leave you back at square one. I asked them to help me with a medical assistance trade and they said because i had a mental disability that it was no way that i could do that type of work. the nerve of them, and the truth is they're suppose to help out with all disabilitiess, but they do act predjudices like it has been mention in one of the comments above. so now i'm trying to enroll myself into a community college, i just have to take the compass test and i will plan on my G E D at a latter time.

Lyn/disappointed said...

It is sad that this article talked only about those with mental disabilities. I have a disability, and a ticket to work. I went to college on my own, with the aid of student loans, which I now have to start paying back. I recieved a Bachelors in Business, and have been looking for work, but have not been able to find full time employment. I have found seasonal part time employment, with tax season which will end soon. I repeatedly called all the services, i.e. local vocational centers, programs, people, and correct contacts the Ticket to Work people told me to contact, starting in Oct. 2011. Here it is almost the end of Feb. 2012, and not one program, vocational center/program, or person has contacted me or even bothered to call me back. This is a pitifull program, that builds up hope of help, but does not have people working for them, directors included, that care to even return a phone call, or help individuals in need. I have done what I have on my own, without the help from anyone, and will continue to try and do what I can to try and find not only a job, but a career, I can try and financially support myself on. We all know that a person cannot survive on $698 a month. I do what I can to try and make ends meet. If it was not for my children and parents at times I would have been homeless for sure. I am a 48yr old single female, and that is my only income, except for my student loans, and pell grant, which I no longer get since last year. I live on my own, and have been since July 2011. I don't get Food Stamps because of a NC state law that disqualified me permanetly from getting them, so I have about $100 a month for food. This is what I survive on. You tell me, how am I gonna pay back student loans without a good job, and some help?