Freedom to Work Project
The Work First Foundation will study the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program, which aims to move recipients of SSI/SSDI into long-term employment, thereby removing them from the benefits rolls. The dramatically understudied program was designed (as explained in the following) as part of the U.S. government’s efforts to reduce the disability payments after decades of increasing enrollments and expenditures, putting SSDI on the precipice of insolvency.
Ticket to Work Review
The Freedom to Work Project will examine the policy implications of the fastest growing dependency programs in our country, Social Security Disability Insurance/Supplemental Security Income. The Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program was created by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (the Act). The Act established a voluntary program in which SSI/SSDI beneficiaries (blind, and disabled persons) with a virtual “ticket” or voucher to utilize free vocational rehabilitation and employment services (career counseling, job placement, ongoing employment support, etc.) from state “vocational rehabilitation agencies” or private “employment network (EN)” operators. The goal was and is to help eligible beneficiaries (between the ages of 18-64) find self-supporting employment and financial independence, resulting in their ultimate removal from the disability payrolls. The EN’s are provided cash payments for performance outcomes determined by work-related successes of the beneficiaries. After the beneficiary is earning income at a predetermined level and for a
predetermined time-period, the EN receives payment from the Social Security Administration.
The original payment structure, however, met challenges as both beneficiaries and ENs were not sufficiently incentivized to participate. The program was amended in 2008, revising the payment structure to for the ENs, as well as providing more money to beneficiaries who are making progress towards self-sufficient employment but do not yet make enough income to be removed from benefits. Additional “work incentives” also enable beneficiaries to maintain Medicaid and Medicare, while they transition to self-sufficiency, and in some cases, after they are off of SSDI/SSI benefits. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office reviewed the program, and found that while participation increased after the 2008 reforms, participation rates remain low overall, finding less than 1% of ticket holders assigned their tickets to employment networks In our proposed summit, the WFF will research the most recent data to examine effect of the reforms on the overall program and SSI/SSDI system.