One-Stop Career Centers and the New Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program
OneStops.info Brief #2
Table of Contents
Overview of Major Provisions of the Ticket to Work Program
Under the Workforce Investment Act, One-Stop Career Centers must be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Under the One-Stop service delivery system, One-Stop partners, including State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies (State VR agencies) collaborate to create a seamless system of service delivery that will enhance access to services and supports and improve long-term employment outcomes for individuals receiving assistance, including individuals with disabilities.
In December 2001, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) published in the Federal Register final regulations implementing the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency program (Ticket to Work program). The regulations are effective as of January 28, 2002.
The purpose of the Ticket to Work program is to expand the universe of service providers to include, among others, One-Stop Career Centers. The expansion of service providers will enhance the range of choices available to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who are seeking employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, and other support services to assist them in finding, entering, and retaining self-supporting employment.
In a nutshell, the Ticket to Work program offers One-Stop Career Centers an additional potential funding source to meet the needs of customers with disabilities for long-term successful employment. However, it is important to note that One-Stop Career Centers and other service providers get paid by SSA a specified amount only when individuals with disabilities are no longer entitled to SSI or SSDI cash benefits because of work or earnings.
The purpose of this edition of OneStops.info is twofold. First, it provides an overview of the major provisions in the final regulations implementing the Ticket to Work program. [A comprehensive description of the final regulations is set out in a separate Policy Brief from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on State Systems at the Institute for Community Inclusion entitled Final Regulations Implementing the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program (The Ticket to Work Program), Volume 4, Number 1, March 2002.] Second, it describes the policy tradeoffs and other factors a One-Stop Career Center may want to consider before determining whether and how to get involved in this new program.
Overview of the Major Provisions in the Ticket to Work Program
What is the purpose of the Ticket to Work program?
The purpose of the Ticket to Work program is to expand the universe of service providers and thereby enhance the range of choices available to SSDI and SSI beneficiaries who are disabled or blind to assist them in finding, entering, and retaining self-supporting employment. Expanded opportunities for these individuals will also increase the likelihood that they will reduce or eliminate their dependency on SSDI and SSI cash benefits.
Is the Ticket to Work program in effect in my state?
The new Ticket to Work program is being phased into operation on a gradual basis at sites selected by the Commissioner of SSA. The first group of states (Phase I) began implementation in February 2002. These states are Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Phase II will be implemented later in calendar year 2002. Phase II states are Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
Phase III will be implemented in calendar year 2003. Phase III states are Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Phase III also includes Puerto Rico and the Trust Territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.
What is a Ticket?
The new Ticket to Work program provides Tickets to every individual who meets eligibility criteria established by the Commissioner. A Ticket is a document issued by SSA that provides evidence of the Commissioners commitment to make payments of specified amounts to service providers (the technical term is employment network) such as One-Stop Career Centers or a State Vocational Rehabilitation agency (State VR agency) to which a SSI or SSDI beneficiarys Ticket has been assigned.
Who is eligible to receive a Ticket?
In general, all SSI and SSDI disability federal cash beneficiaries age 18 through 64 are eligible for a Ticket except beneficiaries whose conditions are expected to improve and who have not had at least one continuing disability review (i.e., a review process conducted by SSA to determine whether current SSI disability and SSDI beneficiaries remain disabled under the Social Security Act), beneficiaries who have not attained age 18, and childhood SSI beneficiaries who have attained age 18 but who have not had a redetermination under the adult disability standard (i.e., the disability standard for adults to receive SSI benefits, which is different from the disability standard for children who receive SSI).
Is participation in the Ticket to Work program voluntary or mandatory?
Participation in the Ticket to Work program is voluntary. The Ticket may be used to obtain vocational rehabilitation, employment, and other support services. The beneficiary holding a Ticket may assign the Ticket to any employment network (e.g., One-Stop Career Center) of his/her choice that is willing to accept the assignment or to the State VR agency if the disabled beneficiary is eligible to receive State VR services.
Can a beneficiary switch employment networks?
Yes. A beneficiary can retrieve the Ticket from the employment network or the State VR agency at any time and can reassign the Ticket to another employment network or the State VR agency if he/she remains eligible for a Ticket. However, an employment network also has the right to discharge a beneficiary from its services at any time if it believes the individual is not making sufficient progress towards employment goals.
Who manages the new Ticket to Work program?
The Commissioner of SSA has entered into a contract with a Program Manager that will be responsible for assisting the Commissioner in administering the Ticket to Work program. SSA has selected MAXIMUS, Inc. to serve as the Program Manager for the entire country. The Program Managers responsibilities include: recruiting and monitoring employment networks, facilitating beneficiary access to employment networks, facilitating payments to employment networks, and resolving disputes among stakeholders. MAXIMUS has developed a website about the Ticket to Work Program: www.yourtickettowork.com.
In addition to One-Stop Career Centers, what other entities may become employment networks?
In addition to One-Stop Career Centers, employment networks may include qualified state agencies (including State VR agencies, Medicaid agencies, and agencies serving persons with mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and mental illness), local agencies, public schools, public and private colleges and universities, and private entities (including community rehabilitation providers, employers, and nontraditional providers). An employment network can be a single entity or an association of entities. The employment network can provide services directly or through contract or other arrangement with other entities.
Must employment networks meet minimum qualifications?
All employment networks must meet minimum qualifications based on general criteria (e.g., physical and program accessibility) and specific criteria (e.g., licensure or accreditation if applicable, or demonstration of sufficient education or experience to deliver services). Any entity must have applicable certificates, licenses, or other credentials if state law requires such documentation.
What are the employment networks responsibilities, including reporting requirements?
The employment network is responsible for coordination and delivery of employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, and other support services. The employment network must report, among other things, information to assist the Program Manager in determining whether an individual is making timely progress and information about a beneficiarys work activity and earnings.
The employment network must ensure that services provided under the Ticket to Work program are provided under an appropriate Individual Work Plan developed and implemented in partnership with each beneficiary receiving services. Similarly, the State VR agency must ensure that services provided under the Ticket to Work program are provided under an appropriate Individualized Plan for Employment (required by Title I of the Rehabilitation Act) developed and implemented in partnership with each beneficiary receiving services.
When and how does SSA pay an employment network?
The Commissioner pays the employment network under one of two systems:
When responding to the RFP, the employment network chooses which payment system it wishes to be compensated under for all individuals it chooses to serve under the Ticket to Work program. Periodic opportunities will be provided to employment networks to change the payment system they are using.
Are the amounts of outcome and outcome-milestone payments adjusted annually?
Yes. The payment systems will be adjusted annually, based on recalculation of the previous years national average monthly SSDI or SSI cash benefits for all beneficiaries and annual adjustments in the SGA amount.
May an employment network use other sources of funding for which an individual may be eligible in combination with funding from the Ticket to Work?
Yes. There is nothing in the regulations that prohibits an employment network from supplementing the funding received from the Ticket to Work program with other sources (e.g., WIA Title I funds, training funds, etc.) in order to meet the needs of an individual. However, an employment network may not request or receive compensation for services from the beneficiary. Also, other funding sources would have to allow such blending of funding.
Outcome Payment System
Under the outcome payment system, an employment network can receive a monthly payment over a period not to exceed 60 months (which do not have to be consecutive) for every month the beneficiary does not receive cash benefits due to work/earnings. The payment rate is based on 40% of the national average monthly SSDI or SSI cash benefit for all beneficiaries.
2002 Outcome Payments - SSDI:
Using calendar year 2002 figures, under the outcome payment system, an employment network could be paid the following amounts for SSDI beneficiaries (including concurrent SSI recipients):
2002 Outcome Payments - SSI:
Using the calendar year 2002 figures, under the outcome payment system, the employment network could be paid the following amounts for SSI recipients:
Outcome-Milestone Payment System
Under the outcome-milestone payment system, the total amount payable to an employment network is about 85 percent of the total potentially payable under the outcome payment system for the same beneficiary. This total payment consists of two partspayments for milestones and payments for outcomes.
An employment network can receive payment for up to four milestones. The four milestones an employment network may receive occur after the Ticket is first assigned and the beneficiary starts to work and before the beneficiary attains any outcome payment months or the Ticket terminates:
If an employment network receives milestone payments with respect to a Ticket, each outcome payment it receives will be reduced by an amount equal to 1/60 of the milestone payments received, rounded to the nearest cent.
2002 Outcome-Milestone Payments - SSDI:
Using calendar year 2002 figures, and assuming that once an individual begins working he/she will attain all four milestones in one year and then the 60 outcome payment months during the next five years, an employment network could receive the following payments for SSDI beneficiaries (including concurrent SSI recipients):
Thus, in year one, the total milestone payments would equal $3,230. Then, in each of the following 5 years, the outcome payments would equal $2,582.04, for a 5-year total of $12,910.20. Adding the milestone and outcome payments together, the total payment would be $16,140.20 over 6 years.
2002 Outcome-Milestone Payments - SSI:
Using calendar year 2002 figures, and assuming that once an individual begins working he/she will attain all four milestones in one year and then 60 outcome payment months during the next five years, an employment network could receive the following payments for SSI only beneficiaries:
Thus, in year one, the total milestone payments would equal $1,945. Then, in each of the following 5 years, the outcome payments would equal $1,554.96, for a 5-year total of $7,774.80. Adding the milestone and outcome payments together, the total payment would be $9,719.80 over 6 years.
Do the 60 outcome payments need to be consecutive months?
No. The 60 outcomes payments do not have to occur consecutively, and the individual work requirements in the Ticket regulations could result in the 60 outcome payments being spread out over a period considerably longer than 5 years. However, bear in mind that the employment network will only receive outcome payments during those months when the individual does not receive a check from SSA. Therefore, there is substantial incentive for the employment network to support the individual to maintain employment at a sufficient earnings level.
How much does an individual have to earn in order for his/her monthly cash benefits to equal zero?
For an individual receiving SSDI, cash benefits equal zero when his/her monthly earnings exceed SGA, which for 2002 is $780 ($1,300 for blind individuals). For individuals receiving SSI based on disability or blindness the amount will vary depending on their monthly SSI payment, but for the calendar year 2002, the average amount is $1,040 per month.
How are State VR agencies treated under the Ticket to Work program?
Unless a payment has previously been made with respect to a Ticket, a State VR agency may choose to serve a beneficiary with a Ticket as an employment network or under the cost-reimbursement payment system.
Set out below are some policy tradeoffs and other factors a One-Stop Career Center may want to consider before determining whether and how to get involved in the Ticket to Work program.
1. Essential Elements for Success under the Ticket Program
To successfully serve individuals under the Ticket to Work program, three elements are essential:
2. Factors to Consider
As a One-Stop Career Center determines whether or not to participate in the Ticket to Work program, the following are factors to consider:
3. Learning from the experience of State VR agencies
The State VR agency may participate in the Ticket to Work program either as an employment network or be paid under the cost-reimbursement system (see above). Your State VR agency may have spent significant time, energy, and resources weighing the pros and cons of participating in the Ticket to Work program as an employment network. In addition, the State VR agency may have already developed policies describing the circumstances under which it will participate as an employment network. Conversations with State VR agency staff may help a One-Stop Career Center think through major policy issues concerning whether and how it wants to serve as an employment network.
How does a One-Stop Career Center become an employment network?
A One-Stop Career Center becomes an employment network by responding to an open request for proposals which is available at www.yourtickettowork.com/rfp.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two disability programs. Individuals may receive cash benefits from one or both programs.
Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI)
SSDI is a program of federal disability insurance benefits for workers who have contributed to the Social Security Trust Fund and become disabled or blind before retirement age. SSA also pays insurance benefits to individuals with disabilities when they are the widow(er)s or surviving divorced spouses of insured workers and when they are the adult children of disabled, retired, or deceased insured workers. SSDI makes monthly cash payments directly to eligible persons with disabilities throughout the period of eligibility.
The Supplemental Security Income program (SSI)
SSI makes cash assistance payments to aged, blind and disabled people (including children under age 18) who have limited income and resources. The federal government funds SSI from general tax revenues.
Individuals may be dually eligible for SSDI and SSI.
The definition of disability for purposes of initial eligibility is identical under the SSDI and SSI programs. Disability is defined as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months or to result in death. For 2002, earnings averaging over $780 per month generally demonstrate SGA. If the individual is blind, earnings averaging over $1,300 per month generally demonstrate SGA. These figures are adjusted annually for inflation. Also, when SSA determines whether earnings are SGA, it does not count subsidies and deducts such things as the cost of certain impairment-related items and services that individuals need to work.
After initial eligibility is determined, the impact of earnings on the eligibility for cash benefits under these programs is very different. The amount of SSI cash benefits is gradually reduced in relation to earnings. In contrast, SSDI uses an all or nothing basis whereby recipients receive their full SSDI cash benefits during a 9-month trial work period and 3-month grace period. After that, benefits stop during any month in which the individual works at the SGA level.
Individuals on SSDI typically are covered by Medicare insurance, whereas individuals on SSI are typically covered under the Medicaid program. Individuals may express hesitancy to participate in the Ticket to Work program because of the perception that loss of health benefits will automatically occur once SSDI or SSI cash benefits cease. However, an increase in earnings to the point where an individual no longer receives an SSDI or SSI check does not automatically result in immediate loss of Medicare or Medicaid, respectively. In fact, under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA), the ability to maintain health coverage and have earnings from employment has been significantly enhanced. For a more in-depth description of the SSDI and SSI programs, including the work incentives included in these programs after the enactment of TWWIIA, see a Policy Brief from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on State Systems at the Institute for Community Inclusion entitled Improvements to the SSDI and SSI Work Incentives and Expanded Availability of Health Care Services to Workers with Disabilities Under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (Volume 2, Number 1, February 2000).
As One-Stop Career Centers and systems consider their possible roles under the Ticket to Work program, as already noted, it may be worth contacting your State VR agency to determine their plans and thoughts on the Ticket to Work program. Additionally, the following suggestions may be helpful.
Changes Related to the Ticket Program
The Ticket to Work Program was established as a result of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (TWWIIA). The Ticket program is just one aspect of an overall federal effort to encourage individuals on SSI and SSDI to pursue employment. Other major aspects of TWWIIA, besides the Ticket program, include:
These other aspects of TWWIIA are intended to work in tandem with the Ticket program, to address barriers and disincentives to employment. One-Stop Career Centers and LWIBs wishing to learn more about these other aspects of TWWIIA can find information at: www.ssa.gov/work/panel/index.html
Individuals will participate in the Ticket program only if they feel confident that the positives of going to work outweigh the impact that income from employment has on any public benefits they are receiving. Public benefit programs can often be confusing, and individuals receiving public benefits may also not be aware of changes that have occurred which reduce disincentives to employment (such as those occurring under TWWIIA). To address these issues, the Social Security Administration has awarded grants to community organizations throughout the United States, to establish Benefits Planning, Assistance, and Outreach (BPAO) projects. Staff at these BPAO projects are trained to help individuals understand the impact of income from employment on the full range of public benefits including: SSI, SSDI, Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, TANF, food stamps, and other public benefit programs. The ability to easily link individuals with quality benefits counseling is key to success for One-Stop Career Centers participating as Employment Networks in the Ticket program. Staff from BPAO projects are establishing a variety of relationships with their local One-Stop systems, including in some cases, being stationed at a One-Stop Career Center on a part or full-time basis. One-Stop Career Centers should consider how to link with the BPAO projects in their local area. Contact information for each of the BPAO projects is available at: www.ssa.gov/work/ServiceProviders/BPAODirectory.html
CRP-Community Rehabilitation Provider
A community-based agency, typically private and non-profit, that provides employment services, including vocational rehabilitation services, to adults with disabilities. The majority of funding for most CRPs comes from government agencies and funding sources.
CDR-Continuing Disability Review
A medical review conducted by the Social Security Administration to determine if an individuals impairment continues to exist and thus whether the individual is still eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. When the individual is using a Ticket (i.e., making sufficient progress toward working at levels eliminating eligibility for cash benefits) he or she is not subject to medical CDRs.
ILC-Independent Living Centers
ILCs are community-based, non-profit, non-residential organizations that provide advocacy, peer counseling, independent living skills training, and information & referral to persons of any age with any type of disability.
SGA-Substantial Gainful Activity
For purposes of determining initial eligibility for SSDI and SSI, the definition of disability is the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for a specified period. For calendar year 2002, SGA is $780 ($1,300 for individuals who are blind). SGA is adjusted on an annual basis for inflation.
SSA-Social Security Administration
SSA provides monthly cash benefits to approximately 10 million individuals in the United States with disabilities under the SSDI and SSI programs. SSA is also responsible for administering the Ticket to Work program.
SSDI-Social Security Disability Insurance
A program of federal disability insurance benefits for workers who have contributed to the Social Security Trust Fund and became disabled or blind before retirement age. The SSDI program also covers spouses with disabilities and dependent children of fully insured workers upon the retirement, disability, or death of a primary beneficiary. SSDI provides monthly cash benefits paid directly to eligible persons with disabilities throughout the period of eligibility. Individuals on SSDI typically are also eligible for Medicare.
SSI-Supplemental Security Income
A means-tested program providing monthly cash income to low-income persons with limited resources on the basis of disability and blindness as well as age. The SSI program is funded out of the general revenues of the Treasury. People who receive SSI also automatically become eligible to receive Medicaid medical insurance in most states.
TWWIIA-Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act
A piece of legislation which began to go into effect in the year 2000. TWWIIA is designed to create greater incentives for people with disabilities on Social Security disability benefits to return to work.
Program Manager: MAXIMUS
National Center on Workforce and Disability/Adult (NCWD)
The following publications are available from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on State Systems at the Institute for Community Inclusion:
Policy Brief: Improvements to the SSDI and SSI Work Incentives and
Expanded Availability of Health Care Services to Workers with
Disabilities under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement
Act of 1999
National Center on Workforce and Disability/Adult
This issue of OneStops.info was written by Robert Silverstein of the Center for the Study & Advancement of Disability Policy, with additional editorial contributions by David Hoff of the Institute for Community Inclusion.
Funding for this publication was provided by the Office of Disability Employment PolicyU.S. Department of Labor.
NCWD's role is to facilitate workforce policy development and implementation impacting the employment of people with disabilities. NCWD activities include: training and technical assistance to State and Local Workforce Investment Boards, One-Stop Career Centers, USDOL staff, and other entities; publications for policymakers and practitioners; a comprehensive web site; collection of information on promising developments from the field; and activities with the National Collaborative on Workforce Development/Youth (www.ncwd-youth.info), based at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C. Feel free to contact us to learn more about NCWD and meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities in the workforce development system.
The opinions contained in this publication are those of the grantees and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Labor or the U.S. Department of Education.
This publication will be made available in alternate formats upon request.