By Tonie Garcia
Social Security District Manager in Portsmouth, OH
People with disabilities are challenged with both overcoming barriers and with convincing others that those barriers do not define them.
That’s why we wanted to mark this October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month by reminding you that Social Security is an earned benefit for millions of disabled individuals, and we can assist them in going back to work.
The Social Security disability insurance program, or SSDI, is perhaps the most misunderstood program of Social Security. Some people may think that SSDI recipients have never worked and are taking advantage of the system by receiving money for minor impairments.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First, anyone who qualifies for SSDI must have worked enough to pay into the system and be “insured.” Second, Social Security has some of the strictest requirements in the world for disability benefits. To qualify, a person must not only have an impairment that will last one year or more, or result in death, but they must be unable to perform any substantial work.
Consequently, Social Security disability beneficiaries are some of the most severely impaired people in the country, and they greatly depend on their benefits. You can learn more by visiting the Faces and Facts website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts. At the website, you will find many personal stories of those who have benefitted from Social Security when they needed it most.
We also have incentives that give beneficiaries with disabilities — who are able — the opportunity to return to work. These work incentives include continued cash benefits for a period of time while you work, continued Medicare or Medicaid coverage, and help with education, training, and rehabilitation to start a new line of work. In some cases, we may even be able to deduct certain impairment-related work expenses from your countable income, making it possible to earn more and also remain eligible to receive benefits. Examples of these expenses are wheelchairs, transportation costs, and specialized equipment needed for work.
Social Security also offers the Ticket to Work program, which gives participants a “ticket” to go back to work while keeping their disability benefits. This program is free and voluntary. Ticket to Work gives access to an employment network, which offers assistance with job searches and placement, and vocational rehabilitation and training.
Those who enroll find the Ticket to Work program makes it easier to explore whether going back to work is right for them. Some even find that they are able to eventually get back to work and earn far more than the disability payments they once received.
Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/work for more information on the Ticket to Work program and work incentives. You may also call 1-866-968-7842 (TDD 866-833-2967).