Valuable Work Support Programs for Americans with Disabilities

October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month. And it is not just an observance for Americans with disabilities. As the […]

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October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month. And it is not just an observance for Americans with disabilities. As the name implies, we all should be “aware” of the possibility that we or a family member could become disabled, and what valuable support is available to help us return to full participation in the workplace and community life.

Unfortunately, statistics show that a young person today has almost a three-in-ten chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. While almost 70% of workers today have no private, long-term disability insurance, almost all do have Social Security disability insurance coverage.

This coverage means that workers who are no longer able to work because of a disability may qualify for monthly benefit payments. And this program can also pay monthly benefits to spouses and children under age 18 (or age 19 if they are full-time students in elementary or high school). In addition, once a worker has been receiving disability payments for two years, he or she will qualify for Medicare coverage.

Just as importantly, if a person with a disability would like to go to work, Social Security can offer vocational rehabilitation through the “Ticket to Work” program. Nearly all individuals receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits receive a “ticket” that they can use to get free vocational rehabilitation, employment or other valuable support services from an approved provider of their choice. Social Security pays these providers for successfully helping a beneficiary go to work.

The Ticket to Work program is voluntary and also has important provisions to ensure that people with disabilities no longer have to choose between keeping their health care coverage and trying to go to work.

Medicare hospital insurance coverage now continues for eight years and six months after most Social Security disability beneficiaries go to work. Medicare coverage continues even if an individual no longer receives a monthly disability benefit from Social Security. Medicare coverage for SSI disability beneficiaries may also be extended. And each state has the option to extend Medicaid coverage to SSI beneficiaries who work.

If you or someone you know is a person with disabilities who would like more information, visit our web site at or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 TTY 1-800-325-0778 to learn more.

Jim Czechowicz is in the Office of Public Affairs, Social Security, Minneapolis, MN

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