By Paula Morgan, Forbes
Case Managers handle many different aspects of helping people with disabilities get back to work.
Even before they begin the process of assisting with a job search, Case Managers dispel myths job seekers have about the Ticket to Work (TTW) program. TTW helps Social Security disability beneficiaries get back to work when their medical condition has stabilized or improved. The program gives former workers significant incentives to return to the workforce, including protecting their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Medicare coverage while they work. I checked in with our team of Case Managers at Allsup Employment Services (AES) to learn the most frequently asked questions they receive from new clients. Here’s what they reported back.
Independent Job Searches
Q: I can look for employment on my own and deal with the Social Security Administration (SSA) directly. How can you help me?
A: We have a lot of clients who are independent with their job search efforts and may not need a high level of assistance in terms of looking for employment. However, we can act as a resource for:
-Requesting reasonable accommodations
-Assisting with job interview preparation
Additionally, we can help job candidates with their reporting obligations to Social Security when they do become employed. We can submit their paystubs directly to SSA so they don’t have to, and, most importantly, we can keep track of their monthly income.
Working While Receiving Benefits
Q: Is it true that I can only work a certain amount of hours and still keep my benefits?
A: That is incorrect. While beneficiaries are in their Trial Work Period (TWP), they can work and earn as much as they choose. The TWP allows them to test their ability to work and still receive their full SSDI benefit each month regardless of how much they earn. The TWP is a time to maximize their earning potential.
Q: I heard I can’t earn more than $1,300 per month and keep my benefits. Is that true?
A: While there is some truth to this statement, it also is a short-term perspective that can be harmful to the financial future of beneficiaries. They can return to work and earn $1,300/month or less, and still keep their monthly benefit. However, they may be using up their Trial Work Period (TWP).
A related concern is that beneficiaries could have been earning a higher amount. They use a Trial Work month (TWM) if their monthly earnings exceed $970 in 2022 ($940 in 2021). It’s important to make the best use of Ticket to Work, especially understanding the rules and applying them correctly. This is where the expertise of employment networks (EN) like AES can really help.
Why Your Earnings Matter
Q: Why is it important to keep track of my earnings?
A: SSA bases the program incentives on the amount beneficiaries earn. Their earnings are used to track their progress with TTW, which is a multi-year program. Reporting earnings to the SSA is also important, since part of the agency’s role is to oversee and avoid overpayments from Social Security when a beneficiary is attempting a return to work.
How To Navigate Finances
Q: How do I figure out my finances after I’ve been receiving SSDI?
A: It can be confusing for beneficiaries to understand how to navigate their work and earnings after receiving SSDI. They need to look at their monthly expenses, costs and budget, and how they can make the shift to working again. This can feel overwhelming for them at first, but it’s an area where a Case Manager can provide guidance and encouragement.
As you can see, beneficiaries may have many misconceptions about the Ticket to Work program. Also, the program has nuances that Case Managers can explain to beneficiaries to ensure they understand the program, are adhering to the rules, and take full advantage of the incentives Ticket to Work has to offer.
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