Work Incentives and Rehabilitation


In addition to providing stable benefits to those who cannot work and to their families, the SSDI program also encourages and helps people who may be able to return to work to try to do so. This helps expand the labor force and saves SSDI trust fund dollars. Two strategies for helping people return to work are providing access to health insurance coverage and offering rehabilitation services.

The prospect of going without the Medicare coverage that is provided after two years to beneficiaries with disabilities may dissuade many people with disabilities from returning to work. SSA’s Ticket to Work program addresses this problem. It allows working individuals with disabilities to have eight years of Medicare and Medicaid coverage without a premium. After that beneficiaries can purchase Medicare if they continue to have a disability. People with disabilities may receive disability payments after a waiting period and before physical or vocational rehabilitation. The strict definition of “disability” requires claimants to prove their inability to work. Only at the end of a long determination process are individuals sent for rehabilitation.

Evidence suggests that early intervention, including both physical and vocational rehabilitation, can help some newly disabled individuals view themselves as able to work, independent, and productive. Thus they are more likely to return to the paid labor force. The Ticket to Work program intervenes early and moves disability claimants more quickly through the system into rehabilitation and work. In addition to access to Medicare and Medicaid, the program provides vocational rehabilitation, job training, and other support services to beneficiaries who hope to return to work.

Work Incentives and Rehabilitation: Policy

Ticket to Work and other programs

In this policy: Federal

AARP supports continuing efforts to expand and improve work incentives, through programs such as the Ticket to Work program for SSDI beneficiaries, as long as they continue to provide a measure of economic security and health benefits and do not endanger the long-term integrity of the Social Security trust funds.

AARP supports SSA’s efforts to intervene early in an individual’s disability.

AARP supports continued expansion by SSA of its pools of alternate providers of vocational rehabilitation for SSDI beneficiaries.