The Ticket to Work program is a Social Security Administration (SSA) initiative to help people with disabilities find and maintain employment. Often, people receiving disability benefits are hesitant to work, afraid their benefits will be taken away if they receive income from a job. However, the Ticket to Work program provides flexibility and support so beneficiaries can make the transition into the workforce while maintaining their benefits.
In the first phase of a return to employment, the Ticketholder will undergo a Trial Work Period (TWP). Beneficiaries can earn unlimited income and keep their benefits during a TWP, provided they’re working toward their employment goals. Part of this requirement is competing timely progress reports demonstrating completion of a certain amount of work or educational activity, or a combination of both.
The Extended Period of Eligibility and Your SSDI Benefits
After your Trial Work Period (TWP) ends, you will enter what is called the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). This is a three-year period where SSA evaluates your work and earnings to see if you can return to Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). The EPE begins the first month after the Trial Work Period ends, regardless of whether you worked that month.
The goal of the EPE is to provide a safety net while transitioning you back into full-time work. During the EPE, you can continue to receive benefits for any month where your earnings or work activities are below the SGA limit. In 2023, SGA is considered anything above $1,470 per month or $2,460 if you’re blind.
During the EPE, your benefits are affected in the following ways:
- Your earnings qualify as SGA. If your earnings exceed the SGA limit in any month during the first 36 months of the EPE, SSA will suspend your cash benefits for that month only.
- Your earnings fall below SGA. If you’re still in the 36-month re-entitlement period, your benefits can be reinstated without filing a new application.
- You work above SGA after 36 months. The first time you work above SGA after the re-entitlement period, SSA will consider your disability ceased. Benefits will be paid for the month disability ended and the following two months.
There is another five-month grace period after the EPE ends, during which you could continue receiving benefits if your earnings fall below the SGA level. If you cannot work above SGA after 36 months of EPE, you will continue to receive benefits until you achieve the SGA level or medically recover.
Can I Get Expedited Reinstatement if I Need Benefits Again?
A return to work isn’t always successful on the first attempt. If your benefits are discontinued because of substantial earnings, and you become disabled again, you have five years from the month your benefits stopped to request Expedited Reinstatement (EXR). If you qualify for EXR, your benefits can be started again right away without the need to file a new application or wait for SSA to review your medical condition.
You are eligible to request EXR if all of the following are true:
- Your prior SSDI benefits were terminated due to SGA, or your previous SSI disability or blindness eligibility was terminated due to excess income.
- Your current medical condition prevents you from working at the SGA level.
- You are unable to perform SGA in the month you apply for Expedited Reinstatement.
- Your current medical condition is the same as, or related to, your original disabling condition.
Our Employment Professionals Help Every Step of the Way
If you’re afraid of returning to work and losing your disability benefits, the dedicated employment professionals at Disability Services of America can help. We can guide you through the requirements of the Ticket to Work program and give you the tools you need to reach your full working potential. Please fill out our online contact form or call (888) 689-6760 to complete a quick intake with one of our team members.