Many people receiving Social Security disability benefits would rather work in a job that brings financial independence and the choices that go with it. You can explore work with little risk, and you don’t have to do it alone. Providers known as Employment Networks (ENs) can help you prepare for, find and keep a job.
Part 1 of What Every Job Seeker Should Know introduced the Individual Work Plan (IWP). An IWP is an agreement between you and your EN, written to help you reach your employment goals. You and your EN share responsibility for your IWP. Part 2 of What Every Job Seeker Should Know looks at your side of this agreement and the benefits of investing in your future!
Your End of the Bargain
If you choose to work with an EN, they agree to invest time and resources to help you become employable, find work, and keep your job. A good EN will support you throughout your journey to financial independence. The IWP is part of their promise to get you there.
Your side of the agreement involves meeting responsibilities that the EN will explain to you and help you meet. These are a little different for everyone based on your benefits, and what is in your IWP. They fall into three categories:
- Training, education and work benchmarks
- Wage reporting
- Status reporting
To learn about your Ticket to Work Employment Team, check out Meet Your Employment Team.
Training and Work Benchmarks
Making timely progress in the Ticket program means you are expected to meet benchmarks related to finding and keeping employment:
- You may be responsible for completing a specified course load in a college, technical, trade or vocational training program; or
- Once you find work, you will be responsible for meeting specific levels of employment, defined by an earning benchmark known as substantial gainful activity (SGA); or
- You may be responsible for meeting a combination of these training, education and work benchmarks.
It’s critical that you report your wages to Social Security in a timely manner. This includes when you start or stop working and when you change your hours or rate of pay. When you begin working, let Social Security know as soon as possible and continue to report your wages by the 10th day of each month. The National Disability Institute (NDI) offers easy-to-follow tips for properly reporting wages in their Wage Reporting Fact Sheet for SSA Disability Beneficiaries.
A good EN should help you:
- Know your reporting responsibilities (see Status Reporting below)
- Submit your paystubs to Social Security on a regular basis
- Understand and know how to respond to correspondence from Social Security
- Resolve any problems that arise
It’s also critical that you report all other events and changes that could affect your Social Security benefits. Every benefit Social Security pays has a list of events you're required to report. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you should also report changes to resources such as bank accounts, changes to property other than the house you live in, and any changes in living arrangements or marital status. Any month in which an SSI recipient has countable resources over the limit (in 2016, $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples), they will not be eligible for an SSI payment. Your EN or Social Security field office can give you an easy-to-follow list of your reporting responsibilities. A good EN can actively help you organize your wage and status reporting.
If you need to change your address or direct deposit, you can do so by simply creating a My Social Security Account.
Not all resources are counted when Social Security determines SSI eligibility. Read SAMHSA’s article SSA-8000, Part III: Resources for details.
For Good Measure
Social Security keeps track of millions of records. There will be a lag time between when you report the information noted above and when this information is recorded. You could receive more money in a month than you should if there is a delay in updating your record or if there is an error in recording the wages you report. Any money mistakenly sent to you that is more then what you are eligible to receive in a given month is called an overpayment. If you receive an overpayment, Social Security will send you a notice in the mail explaining what happened and the amount you were overpaid. Your EN can help you resolve it.
Here are steps you can take to stay organized and avoid benefit overpayments:
- Open a separate bank account for your Social Security disability benefits. While this is not required, many people find that having a separate bank account for their SSDI and SSI payments makes it easier to track funds, keep accurate records, and correspond with Social Security.
- Keep copies of everything. This includes copies of paystubs, Social Security receipts, official notices, and all other correspondence with Social Security. Careful record keeping is important.
- Follow up to make sure the wage or status changes you reported were received and recorded by Social Security. You want Social Security records to accurately reflect your actual income and assets.
Ticket program participants like Renate Merritt will tell you that the benefits of meaningful employment and financial independence are the payoff for your investment.
"Ticket to Work is absolutely worth every bit of your time and effort. The people involved ... are there to encourage you to do your very best and help you take the steps you need to succeed."
– Renate Merritt, Ticket to Work participant
To learn about others who weighed the risks and rewards of job hunting and have stories to share, read or watch Ticket to Work Success Stories.