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 on his resume? How can he discuss his health issues in an interview?

He goes to lunch with his friend Jessica and they 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 because 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. “What’s the program all about?”

“Well, the Ticket to Work Program is designed to help people with disabilities reach their employment goals,” says Jessica. “It offers 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 the Ticket to Work Program Help Line,” says Jessica. “And it’s your lucky day, Manny, because I happen to have a business card with their phone number right here. It's 1-866-968-7842.”

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

“Probably. The program is for Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities who are 18 – 64 years old. Do you get SSI or SSDI?”

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

“Sounds like you’ll qualify,” says Jessica. “But you should call 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 Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration.”

“What’s the difference between those 2 agencies?”

“They both serve the same basic purpose under the Ticket to Work Program: they offer services to help you find work. Organizations like job placement agencies, Centers for Independent Living, and employers can be Employment Networks. The Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration is a state agency that helps people with disabilities become employed. I worked with an Employment Network myself, but I know others who have worked with the Rehabilitation Administration. Who you work with kind of depends on the services you need.”

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

“They helped with everything. They directed me to get 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 Network to Network, 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 Rehabilitation Administration can also help with training.”

“That would be great,” says Manny.

“If you work with an Employment Network, you’ll work with them to draft an Individual Work Plan that outlines your employment goals and the services they will offer. If you work with the Rehabilitation Administration, 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 does a medical CDR, they decide whether or not you still qualify as medically disabled by their definition. If they decide 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 timely progress under your Ticket plan is a real perk,” says Jessica.

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

“Well, your progress is reviewed 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 3 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 3rd 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 the help line 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!”