Manny’s Story

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.

Jessica explains to Manny that the Ticket to Work program is designed to help people with disabilities reach their employment goals. It offers all sorts of employment services, such as training, job counseling, and job referrals.

Manny asks Jessica about eligibility, and she refers him to the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842.

Jessica explains that the program is for Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities who are 18 – 64 years old. Manny gets a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment every month, so he will probably qualify. He decides to call the Help Line, just to be sure.

Manny asks Jessica about what the program will do for him.

“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, the next step is to get hooked up with an Employment Network or Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services.”

Manny isn’t clear about the difference between them and asks Jessica to clarify.

“Employment Networks are agencies recognized by the Ticket to Work program that help people with disabilities become employed,” Jessica tells Manny. “Vocational Rehabilitation Services is a state agency that is an Employment Network. Other organizations like job placement agencies, Centers for Independent Living, and employers can also be Employment Networks. I worked with a private Employment Network myself, but I know others who have worked with Vocational Rehabilitation. Who you work with kind of depends on the services you need.”

Jessica explains to Manny how the Employment Network helped her with her 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 get training in computer programming.”

“Once you’ve chosen your Employment Network, you’ll work with them to draft an Individual Work Plan (IWP) that outlines your employment goals and the services they will offer. To be ‘active’ in the program, 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 timely progress, Social Security will suspend medical Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs).”

Manny is curious about why that is 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. So the fact that medical CDRs are not done when 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,” Jessica tells him. “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!”