Benefits Counseling Services
Have questions about how employment will affect your Social Security benefits? Whether you are a student in high school or an adult, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) and Social Security recognize that disability benefits are a very important part of the career and household decision-making process. Social Security offers a number of work incentives to help you explore, maintain, and advance in employment. If you are receiving Social Security benefits and planning to become employed, now is a good time to learn more about these incentives. Benefits planners help Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients earn more than they ever thought possible.
Your DVRS counselor will talk with you about making benefits planning a part of your Pre-Employment Transitioning Service Agreement or your Individualized Plan for Employment. You and your counselor will decide which components of benefits planning are right for your individualized needs. When your DVRS counselor refers you to a certified benefits planner, the benefits planner will become a part of your support team. Your benefits planner will work with you throughout your DVRS case and will assist you in connecting to additional resources after your DVRS case is closed, all at no cost to you.
- Help you establish an earnings goal
- Help you keep your benefits while working
- Help you understand how work can impact current state assistance you may be receiving
- Keep in touch as you progress towards your employment goal
- Help you report your earnings to Social Security
- Help you identify supports after your DVRS case is closed
Your DVRS counselor will refer you to a benefits planner. Meetings may be provided in person, by phone, or via teleconference, as appropriate or preferred. The benefits planner will explain what documentation and records they will need to review in order to give you accurate information about the impact of work on your cash benefits and medical coverage, and will ask you to sign a release of information form.
All benefits planners are required to abide by ethical standards to ensure confidentiality and to provide you with information in accordance with federal and state guidelines as they apply to your benefits.
Ticket to Work is a Social Security Administration (SSA) program that connects people with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) with Employment Networks (ENs) or the state public Vocational Rehabilitation program (DVRS) which coordinate and provide appropriate services to help you find and maintain employment. These services can include training, career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, job placement, benefits planning, and ongoing support services necessary to achieve a work goal. The Division of Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) participates in the Ticket to Work program and has assisted many individuals with disabilities who receive SSDI and SSI benefits to return to work, often earning more than the amount of their cash benefits.
If you receive Social Security disability benefits and are between the ages of 18 and 64, you are likely eligible for the Ticket to Work program. Your DVRS counselor can help you find out more about available services for Ticket Holders.
- You may be able to receive services and/or develop skills that will help you to find a job with health benefits and earnings greater than your SSDI or SSI check.
- SSA will not conduct a Continuing Disability Review (CDR), which determines if you will continue to receive benefits based on your disability, if your Ticket is “In-Use” with DVRS or an EN and you meet SSA’s Timely Progress requirements. For more information, click here.
Assigning your Ticket: If your Ticket is currently assigned to an Employment Network (EN), DVRS staff will work with you and your EN to assure that there is coordination of services leading to employment. According to Social Security rules, if your Ticket is available for assignment, then completing and signing your Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) and receiving services from DVRS means that your Ticket is “In Use” with DVRS. DVRS will work with you to develop an IPE to achieve employment based on your goals. When working with DVRS the ticket will need to be assigned to DVRS until case closure.
After DVRS Services: After you achieve employment and your case with DVRS is closed, your Ticket will be taken out of “In Use” status. Once employed, DVRS will facilitate your connection with partner Employment Networks that can provide employment supports to help you continue working. It is your choice if you wish to assign your Ticket to Work to an EN. However, if you choose to assign your Ticket to an EN and you continue to meet SSA’s Timely Progress requirements, SSA will not schedule you for a Continuing Disability Review. Finally, even if your case is closed unsuccessfully with DVRS, you may still assign your Ticket to another agency.
Q. Do I need my paper Ticket?
A. While SSA does mail a packet of information to each beneficiary, you do not need to have the paper Ticket to access DVRS services. DVRS will work with SSA to ensure your Ticket is available and assignable for use with DVRS.
Q. Do I have to use my Ticket?
A. No, SSA does not require that you use or assign your Ticket to an EN or DVRS. However, if you sign a plan for services with DVRS, SSA considers your Ticket to be “In Use” with DVRS.
Q. Are there any costs to participate in the Ticket to Work program?
A. No. The program is free and voluntary.
Q. Does assigning my Ticket to DVRS adversely affect my benefits?
A. No. In fact, it provides certain protections such as Continuing Disability Review exemption and can assist you in accessing important services such as benefits planning.
Q. How will working affect my benefits?
A. Social Security’s Ticket to Work program has special provisions called work incentives that make it easier for you to work, increase your earnings, maintain your medical coverage, and improve your standard of living. If your cash benefits cease and should your employment situation change, these work incentives can help you restart your cash benefits if you cannot continue working because of your disability. Furthermore:
- If you currently receive Medicare, there are special provisions for you to remain eligible for at least 93 months after you achieve certain earning levels.
- If you receive Medical Assistance (Medicaid), there are several provisions to extend your coverage after employment.
- If you currently don’t receive Medicaid, you may be able to access it through a program known as Employed Individuals with Disabilities (EID) once you begin working.
- Your DVRS counselor can refer you to an SSA trained expert known as a Benefits Planner who will answer your questions regarding how work may impact your SSA benefits and describe supports SSA has in place to help you return to work.
Benefits Planning Fee-for-Services (FFS) include:
- General Benefits Consultation: Initiated prior to Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) assistance with an assessment of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) needs. Provided to Pre-Education Transition Services (Pre-ETS) consumers and any person currently on or potentially eligible for Social Security (SS).
- Pre-employment Benefits Planning: Initiated upon IPE signature with all parties involved.
- Job Placement and Employment Maintenance: Initiated when consumer is offered employment that matches IPE goal.
- Benefits Check-in: Initiated when DVRS consumer reapplies for services, develops an IPE, and previously received at least phase 1 with DVRS. They should be referred back to former benefits planning provider (if available to receive the referral).
- Special Circumstances: Services available to address unique situations that may arise.
General Benefits Consultation: During General Benefits Consultation (GBC), a DVRS counselor works to help the consumer understand their employment earnings or paid work-based learning experience in relation to their benefits. Once the DVRS counselor makes a referral to a benefits planner, the consumer should be contacted within 5 days. A comprehensive report is then sent to the DVRS counselor no later than 30 days from the initial meeting. This report will map out in detail the impact of work and earnings on benefits, empowering the counselor with a tool to generate a meaningful conversation with the consumer. This in turn allows the consumer to make informed decisions regarding earnings, work, and career paths, as well as future life plans.
Authorizations may be issued for:
- Students with disabilities, as a Pre-ETS Workplace Readiness Training service
- Individuals eligible for vocational rehabilitation services who do not yet have an Individualized Plan for Employment.
Pre-Employment Benefits Planning: DVRS counselors may authorize this long-term service for consumers they believe could benefit from a comprehensive benefits service and analysis that is a 360-degree approach to the consumer’s career pathway decisions, assessing the impact of work on benefits in relation to family higher education goals. This service is available to all DVRS consumers who receive Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits—including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Childhood Disability Beneficiary (CDB), Disabled Widow(er) Benefits (DWB)—or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Reports are reviewed on a quarterly basis.
Authorizations may be issued for:
- Students with disabilities, as a pre-ETS Workplace Readiness Training service and documented on an IPE or pre-ETS Service Agreement, prior to participation in a paid work-based learning experience
- Individuals with IPEs including those who have previously received pre-Employment Benefits Planning as a Pre-Employment Transition Service
- VR consumers. For these consumers, a referral should be made for this service immediately after the IPE is developed. Contact should be made with the consumer within 5 days of referral to a benefits planner. A comprehensive report is due no later than 60 days from date of meeting.
Job placement and Employment/Maintenance: this service allows continuity of services. In order to begin this phase, the DVRS counselor will generate an authorization to the benefits planner once the consumer has been offered a job. The purpose is to explain fully to the consumer the type of work, salary, and hours of the position and how it impacts benefits. The benefits planner will revise the Benefits Summary and Analysis (BS&A) with projected impact to the consumer’s benefits based on employment.
Benefits Check-In: a year after case closure, the DVRS counselor may authorize a Benefits Check-in to determine whether there have been substantial changes to the consumer’s benefits, honoring informed choice, and, if possible, referring the consumer back to the provider who provided benefits planning services. When that referral is not possible or the prior closure is older than one year, the counselor will reopen the case, and authorize Phase I Pre-Employment Benefits Planning after the IPE is developed.
Within three weeks after the service is complete, the benefits planner will provide an invoice for this service, pertinent documentation of benefits changes, and a recommendation to the DVRS counselor as to additional services needed.
Special Circumstances: particularly complex benefits planning services may necessitate additional services at an hourly rate and can be completed during any of the phases as necessary and appropriate. If a special circumstance is identified by a benefits planner during the course of standard service, coordination with the DVRS counselor will be necessary to review the need and discuss the number of hours to be authorized. Once the service is authorized, service should be provided as soon as possible. Pertinent documentation will be provided to the DVRS counselor along with the invoice no later than three weeks after the service.