Ticket to Work Program

Photo of a calendar with a post-it note with text, Back to Work

The Ticket to Work Program provides most people receiving Social Security benefits (beneficiaries) more choices for receiving employment services. The Ticket to Work Program allows participants to continue to receive benefits until earned wages or self-employment income rises above the applicable earnings limit for the Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance program, known as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).

If you participate in the Ticket to Work Program you can receive services from an SSA-approved Employment Network (EN). An EN can help you:
  • Increase your income
  • Gain personal fulfillment
  • Enhance social engagement

While you may not be able to return to your prior job and employer after your stroke, there are services that can help you find new work that aligns with your experience, abilities, and interests. Allsup Employment Services, Inc. (AESI) is a national network that provides free services such as:
  • Career planning
  • Work incentive/benefits counseling
  • Resume building/interview preparation
  • Job search/job placement assistance
  • Ongoing support once employment is obtained

If you’re ready to get back to work and would like AESI to assist you, please visit stroke.allsupES.com. You can also email stroke.info@allsupES.com or call (888) 879-1450.

Stroke Survivor Encourages Others to Seek Help When Considering Returning to Work

Robyn Mixon speaks with the experienced voice of a stroke and heart attack survivor. It’s a voice filled with hope that was gained through overcoming discouragement. It’s a voice that’s grown strong by experiencing weakness.

“Some of the best things I’ve learned are: Nobody learns everything in a day. It’s OK to return to my medications to help my condition and to get plenty of rest,” she said.

Robyn experienced a heart attack and a stroke in 2010. At the time, she worked as an account manager managing corporate and institutional loans.

As she approached the five-year mark following her stroke, she realized she needed the financial stability and personal gratification of employment. “I also wanted to know if I could function again in the workplace,” she said.

Recovery and Rehabilitation After A Stroke

However, the journey back to the workplace required a significant time period of recovery and rehabilitation. She spent six days in the hospital following her stroke and heart attack, and then was transferred to a rehabilitation center. “I had one month of inpatient rehabilitation and three months of outpatient occupational and physical therapy,” Robyn said. “I also had more physical therapy and therapy for headaches.”

Her recovery progressed over the years, though she still experiences pain, lethargy, and related limitations from her condition. “I continue to fight through the chronic fatigue, which is a residual of the stroke,” she explained.

Understand Yourself, Then Become An Asset To Others

Meeting physical and other challenges, she is back at work and has a new role in the world of finance. Her position includes administration and management of financial services, such as loan and bond purchases and sales, as well as auditing and fund reconciliation.

“Going back to work after just having a stroke is dependent on the person’s experience and severity of the stroke,” she said. Robyn advises others to “seek professional help according to each problem you are faced with. Don’t stop searching until the doctors show you they get your personal concerns and they help you understand all of the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of your well-being. Don’t be pushed aside.”

From her experiences so far, she said, “In order to stay on the good road to recovery, people who have experienced a stroke need to understand themselves first, before they can be an asset to anyone else.”

The Ticket to Work Program helped Robyn move forward in her journey back to the workplace.

As a recipient of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, she was eligible for incentives through the Ticket to Work Program. She could maintain her Social Security disability benefits, her Medicare coverage, and also explore making more income through a new job with a new employer.

Robyn reached out to Allsup Employment Services Inc. after receiving a letter about their free employment assistance services.  AESI is a subsidiary of Allsup Inc., and it is an approved Employment Network by the Social Security Administration.

AESI’s services include benefits counseling, interview coaching, resume building, and job search and job placement to Social Security disability recipients. Her AESI team assisted her by preparing her to answer questions that she could expect during job interviews.

Surviving Means Facing The Unknown

Robyn’s personal battle during her recovery was with fear, pain, and the unknown. Maybe one of the biggest challenges, she said, is that there are no tangible answers. Each person must go through a process of self-discovery after a stroke.

“In order to continue surviving, we must empower ourselves by educating ourselves on the aspects that prevent us from moving forward,” she said. “Having a stroke and heart attack has shown me a lot about myself and the world in which we live. I hope I can help people find their inner strength.”

For more information about returning to work following a stroke, visit stroke.AllsupES.com, email stroke@allsupES.com or call (888) 841-2126.

Clair Diones of National Stroke Association, and Jeff Woldanski of Allsup discuss the Ticket to Work Program and field questions from a live chat (this video was previously recorded).

How do I prepare myself to go back to work?

If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you may want to seek out an Employment Network at no cost to you, these networks typically help you:
  • Develop career goals
  • Build your resume
  • Learn and practice interview skills
  • Search for jobs and offer job placement assistance

You can find an Employment Network at ChooseWork.net. Each Employment Network is different—find one that best meets your needs.

How do I know if I’m ready to return to work after my stroke?

The answer to this question is unique to each individual.  A great indicator for success in returning to work lies in your motivation to do so.   Motivation enables people to overcome challenges that may be barriers for others.  Beyond motivation, the ability to keep a regular schedule is important.  This doesn’t mean you have to be able to work 8 or 10 hours straight.  Regular sleep patterns and the ability to commit a consistent block of time to an activity are examples of a regular schedule.  Fortunately, the Ticket to Work Program is designed to allow people to ease into work over time and doesn’t penalize them if they try to work and find they aren’t completely ready.

Am I eligible to participate in Ticket to Work? How do I get started?

Anyone who receives Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits is eligible for Ticket to Work and Social Security’s work incentives. They can obtain their “ticket” by contacting an Employment Network (EN). You can find an EN at ChooseWork.net

I’m interested in pursuing a specific career, but I might need additional training. Will an Employment Network for Ticket to Work pay for this?

In general, Employment Networks do not pay for training.  They may, however, be able to refer you to resources that can help you find training programs specific to your skills and interests.  You may be referred to your state Vocational Rehabilitation department or American Job Center for training to help you prepare to re-enter the workforce.

I’d like to find a new job that I’m capable of doing with my post-stroke deficits.

This is a question frequently asked by individuals seeking to work after a stroke. If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance, you can use your ticket through the Ticket to Work Program and receive help exploring a new career. Employment Networks (EN) are available to help Social Security disability recipients identify what jobs they are interested in and can do. Advances in adaptive technology are making more kinds of work possible, and EN staff will work with you one-on-one to understand your work experience, education, and interests to determine jobs that may be a good fit for you.

If I return to work, can I receive restrictions?

Yes, you can return to work with restrictions. The key is to find a job that can be performed within the restrictions provided by your physician.

What types of jobs are available to me that will not affect my Social Security Disability income?

A job in which you do not earn more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount of $1,090 per month should not affect your SSDI. Each month you earn more than $780, will be counted as a trial work month (you are allowed nine). If you are not participating in the Ticket to Work Program, you will be subject to continuing disability reviews. 

How do I go back to work if I am unable to drive as a result of my stroke?

Transportation is a significant challenge for many stroke survivors. Depending on the range of services an Employment Network provides, they may be able to help you identify transportation options, including public transportation, or special transportation programs in your area. An Employment Network can work with you to identify jobs and employers that are accessible using the transportation options available to you.

Is part-time work available?

Part-time jobs are available and may be a good way to transition to full-time employment. One of the aims of the Ticket to Work Program is to help SSDI recipients increase their earnings. If you are able to achieve and sustain substantial gainful activity (earn at least $1,090 per month) working part time, you may choose to continue working part time, or attempt to work full time.

A number of beneficiaries start off thinking they can only work part time.  In some cases, they are able to build up their endurance over time and work more than part time.  In other cases, people find they can’t work more than part time.  The great thing is that Ticket to Work allows beneficiaries to start the process to learn what works for them.  An Employment Network can provide information that will help you understand how you benefits may be affected by work earnings to help you make educated decisions.