What Is Social Security’s Ticket to Work Program?

The Ticket to Work program provides employment services for Social Security disability benefits recipients.
Erin Oppenheim
By Erin Oppenheim 
Edited by Dalia Ramirez

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The Ticket to Work program helps people pursue career development while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. It provides employment services and support for disability benefits recipients and their family members or caretakers

Social Security Administration. The Work Site. Accessed Aug 17, 2023.

The program is free if you receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). It can help you find a job, prepare to begin one or just receive extra support to be successful at work.

How the Ticket to Work program works

To qualify for Ticket to Work, you must be:

How to sign up for Ticket to Work

  1. Check your eligibility. Call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY) so a representative can walk you through the eligibility requirements and answer any questions. 

  2. Choose a service provider. Depending on your needs, you may choose to assign your “ticket” to either a vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency or an employment network (EN). You can also use the SSA’s Find Help tool to get a customized list of service providers or request a list of providers in the mail. The SSA also has a worksheet with questions you can ask potential providers.

  3. Develop your Individual Work Plan (IWP). Once you’ve matched with a service provider, you’ll create a plan outlining your employment goals. The overall goal of Ticket to Work is to become financially independent from SSDI benefits. According to the SSA, you should work toward earning at a Trial Work Period level ($1,050 or more per month) within 10 months, and toward substantial gainful activity after a year

    Social Security Administration Ticket to Work. Individual Work Plan. Accessed Aug 17, 2023.
    The substantial gainful activity limit for 2023 is $1,470 per month ($2,460 if you’re blind). In 2024, the limit is $1,550 per month ($2,590 if blind).

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How to leave the program

If you feel confident getting back to work or wish to leave the program for any reason, communicate this with your service provider, especially if you’re in the middle of your IWP.

You’ll submit a written request to the SSA to place your ticket in "inactive status." Once this request is received, your ticket will be placed in “inactive status” on the first day of the following month. You may qualify for expedited reinstatement and earn provisional benefits while SSA reviews your case

Social Security Administration. Expedited Reinstatement. Accessed Aug 17, 2023.

Pros and cons of Ticket to Work



You won’t automatically lose disability benefits if you participate.

There may not be a participating Employment Network or state vocational rehabilitation agency near you.

You can continue to receive health care benefits.

You’re required to follow the plan your service provider sets and make “timely progress” toward employment goals.

You’ll be protected from a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) that could cause you to lose your benefits.

The goal of the program is to eventually reduce or eliminate your dependence on SSDI benefits. It may not be a good fit if you want to work part-time long term.

Tips for navigating the Ticket to Work program

  • Take advantage of free benefits counseling available to help you navigate the program. Your counselor might also refer you to additional programs you’re eligible for.

  • Take advantage of other work incentives from the SSA that complement Ticket to Work. These include extended Medicare and Medicaid coverage and reimbursable work expenses.

  • Stay on track. The SSA will review your progress in your work plan regularly to ensure you’re reaching your employment goals within the timeframe you’ve established with your service provider.

Frequently asked questions

No, there’s no requirement to enroll in Ticket to Work. The program is voluntary and intended to give you the freedom to decide what works best for you. There are no charges for any services you receive through the program, and there are no penalties if you don’t participate.

The SSA no longer mails you a paper ticket, and you aren’t required to have one in order to participate in the program. Whatever EN you select will be able to contact the ticket program manager and verify your eligibility.

Yes. Tell your EN that your goal is to be self-employed and start your own business early on in the process. However, some ENs might not choose to work with you if that is your goal, so you’ll need to match with one that supports self-employment plans.

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