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COL Ticket to work now available nationwide

Social Security's Ticket to Work program -- designed to help people with disabilities go to work and achieve their employment goals -- is now available nationwide.

The Ticket to Work program is one of the best ways to help Americans with disabilities realize their dreams through meaningful and successful careers. People receiving a ticket in the mail also get information telling them how to use it to get vocational rehabilitation services, as well as employment and other support services from any of the employment service providers. Social Security now has contracts with hundreds of groups and organizations around the country, called Employment Networks, to help people with disabilities find work.

Beneficiaries will receive services from Employment Networks for free. Social Security will pay the Employment Networks for successfully helping people go to work. Employment Networks may choose to be paid based solely on helping beneficiaries achieve self-sufficiency, or they may choose to receive payments when beneficiaries achieve different milestones during their attempt to go to work.

The Ticket to Work program includes other provisions to help people with disabilities who try to go to work. For example, the law extends health care coverage. Under the legislation, most Social Security disability beneficiaries are protected by Medicare for at least eight years and six months after they go to work. And some states allow working people with disabilities to buy Medicaid coverage even if they are no longer eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits. People with disabilities who get Supplemental Security Income should contact the state Medicaid office in their area for more information.

The Ticket to Work program is voluntary. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries who receive a ticket are not required to work, but may choose to use their ticket to attempt to go to work.

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Another feature of the Ticket to Work law helps people restart benefits if they try to work but then have to stop work because of their disability. For 36 months after a "trial work period" ends, Social Security can restart a person's benefits almost immediately after he or she stops working. And even beyond that three-year period, there are protections. For another 60 months, people can request reinstatement of benefits without filing a new application.

If you're getting Social Security or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, and haven't received your ticket yet, you soon will. Anyone who wants a ticket immediately can call 1-866-968-7842 (1-866-YOURTICKET). TDD/TTY users should call 1-866-833-2967 (1-866- TDD2WORK). For more information about the Ticket to Work program, visit Social Security's Web site at www.socialsecurity.gov and click on "Ticket to Work" under the "Disability and SSI" section of the home page.

David Rude is the Social Security district manager in Rochester.

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