Employment Support for Young Adults with Disabilities

Looking for work, job-huntingThe transition from school to the workforce challenges anyone, but the challenges posed to young adults with a disability are even more discouraging–without the right help, at least.

When a teenager or young adult is receiving Social Security disability benefits, there is also a concern over whether disability benefits and Medicaid will continue or not. Without these programs’ financial support, their chances of success are slim: Over 65% of adults with a disability are unemployed, and those that do have a job barely scrape by. Almost one-third of adults with a disability live below the poverty level, reports the Disability Funders Network.

Randy Lewis, in a guest column at the Seattle Times, summed up this struggle, explaining:

“When it comes to employment, people with disabilities die a death of a thousand cuts. They may have difficulty through Internet applications. They may not interview well. They may have gaps in their employment history. They may not learn the way companies train. They may look or talk differently. The unkindest cut? The widely held belief that they cannot do the job.”

It’s no wonder young adults are afraid of losing their disability benefit; even though they are capable workers, the cards are stacked against them. However, there is significant help in the form of a few governmental programs, not to mention companies that hire people with disabilities. The following federal programs, Ticket to Work and PASS, are great resources for young adults with disabilities who are able to work.

Ticket to Work

This is the starting place for disability beneficiaries ages 18 through 64 who would like to go back to work.

As the Ticket to Work site explains: “The Ticket program and Work Incentives allow you to keep your benefits while you explore employment, receive vocational rehabilitation and gain work experience. Your cash benefits and Medicaid or Medicare often continue throughout your transition to work, and there are protections in place to help you return to benefits if you find you are unable to continue working due to your disability. ”

This means that by working with Ticket to Work, if you lose your job or are laid off, you will not have to go through the claims process again. Benefits can be re-instated almost immediately. This gives you the freedom to explore employment and receive training through the following options:

1. Employment Networks.

These organizations, contracted through Ticket to Work, give free career training, job placement, and support. You can explore their online options even if you don’t live in these areas. Below are some of the more accessible options:

2. State Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

This service includes Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselors in your area. This option is better than the Employment Newtworks for more significant and ongoing training. VR agencies can give you the tools to find a job that works with your disability. Feel free to click here and call the Utah agency today.

As one Ticket to Work participant, Megan Rigg, said when she shared her story in Social Security’s Ticket to Work podcast series:

“They [Ticket to Work] have been really helpful with helping me make sure that I know how my medical benefits are carrying over and different things like that which is obviously important. But they’re also helping me with my resume, looking for new jobs, putting me in contact with other people who might be able to help me. So it’s actually been really beneficial.”

Office jobPlan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

Do you have a work goal? A dream job? Would you like to start a business? Go to college?

PASS allows an SSI recipient age 15 or older to open up a separate bank account to save money for a specific work goal. The money–which cannot come from SSI benefits but must be other income–will not be counted when that person’s SSI cash benefit or Medicaid eligibility is calculated. PASS allows a person to work to save money without that money impacting their disability benefits.

The work goal can be education/schooling, vocational training, a start-up business, or other plans that would lead to future employment. Once a goal is established, the PASS applicant outlines how to reach it and enumerates the costs–whether transportation, technology, equipment, tools, tuition, etc. The applicant determines how much money is needed, the steps to acquire it, and how long it will take. Other specific forms and instructions can be found here or check out this helpful YouTube video.

Although these programs are good tools for young job-seekers, they do not remove the complications of choosing between working but struggling financially, or not working but being able to pay the expensive costs of a disability. We at Summit Disability Law Group wish you the best in your goal for financial independence and balance. We  hope that, if you are able, you learn to thrive in a job while managing your disability. Please leave a comment with other questions we can help answer.





Top photo courtesy of: Nathan Hayag

Bottom photo courtesy of: Seattle Municipal Archives