Ticket to Work Dictionary

This page includes definitions to many of the common terms referenced in this website.


Assigning your Ticket

Signing up with a Ticket to Work service provider (Employment Network, Workforce Employment Network or Vocational Rehabilitation Agency) to develop a work plan and receive job support services to achieve that plan. Service providers can offer help such as career planning, benefits counseling, job placement, or training, among other services.

While some Social Security beneficiaries receive a paper Ticket in the mail, a paper Ticket is not needed to get free services through Ticket to Work. But, you do need to qualify. See rules about who can use Ticket to Work Program resources here.

If you assign your ticket to an approved service provider before a medical Continuing Disability Review (CDR) – or Social Security review to confirm whether you still have a disability – has been scheduled, you will not have a CDR as long as you are participating in the Ticket to Work Program and making progress within Social Security's timeframes. Read more about Continuing Disability Review (CDR).

Area Work Incentives Coordinators (AWIC)

Social Security employees who provide employment and outreach support to service providers and beneficiaries in local communities. Find the Area Work Incentives Coordinator for your region here. Learn more about Area Work Incentives Coordinators.

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Benefits counseling

A free service offered by many Ticket to Work service providers to beneficiaries thinking about work or looking for jobs, to explain how working will affect their federal and state benefits. These benefits could include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), housing assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamps, and health benefits including Medicare and Medicaid. Working with a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) project for benefits counseling is often a first step for beneficiaries who want to go to work.


A regularly updated website or web page written in a relaxed style, posted in order by date. Visit the Choose Work Blog for updates and information about such topics as: disability employment, tips on managing your money, Ticket to Work Success Stories, disability protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how to take advantage of your Social Security disability benefits.

Benefits Planning Query (BPQY)

A statement prepared by Social Security that contains detailed information about the status of your cash benefits, scheduled medical reviews, health insurance and work history as stored in Social Security's electronic records. The BPQY provides tailored information on Social Security’s employment support programs that you can use as a tool to help you start planning your journey to work. Learn more about Benefits Planning Queries.

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Career planning

A review of skills and interests to develop a plan to find work options available to you.

Career counseling

A service to help you understand your job options to make choices about education, life and employment.

Continuing Disability Review (CDR)

A routine process Social Security uses to make sure your disability still meets Social Security disability benefits rules. There are two types of Continuing Disability Reviews: medical and work. Medical disability reviews check your medical condition, to see whether you still have a disability. If you assign your ticket to an approved service provider before a medical Continuing Disability Review (CDR) has been scheduled, you do not have to have a CDR while you are participating in the Ticket to Work Program and making progress within Social Security's timeframes. Read more about Continuing Disability Review (CDR).

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Social Security defines "disability" as a situation when you are not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment. The impairment may either be expected to result in death, or has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. Learn more on how Social Security defines "disability" in the Red Book.

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Employment Network (EN)

Public or private groups that contract with Social Security to provide free job support services to people who receive Social Security disability benefits age 18 through 64 who are interested in working towards the goal of replacing their benefits with income from a job. Employment Networks may offer career planning help, job leads and job placement, ongoing employment support and benefits counseling. Learn more about Employment Networks (ENs).

Expedited Reinstatement

A Social Security Work Incentive that enables a person whose benefits ended because he or she worked and had earnings to request that their benefits start again without having to file a new application if he/she is no longer able to work due to their disability. The request must be made within 60 months from the month benefits ended. Read more about Expedited Reinstatement.

Extended Period of Eligibility

A 36-month (three-year) period that starts after the Trial Work Period ends. During this timeframe you receive full benefits for months where gross earnings are below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level. Find this year's SGA amount or learn more about the Extended Period of Eligibility.

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Federal contractor

Companies that do business with the United States government (any department or agency) to perform a specific job or supply labor and materials. New rules called Section 503 encourage federal contractors to hire more people with disabilities, including Ticket to Work participants. Learn more about Section 503.

Financial independence

The ability to pay for the essentials of life without help from others or through Social Security benefits. Usually earned by getting and maintaining a job or career.

Find Help Tool

The Ticket to Work Find Help Tool makes it easier to find service providers, or job support services that can help Social Security disability beneficiaries achieve their job goals. Type your ZIP code or state to find service providers in your area that can help you. You can filter the search results by provider type or disabilities served. If you know the name of the provider, you can also now type it or part of the provider’s name to find it.

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Impairment–Related Work Expenses (IRWE)

If you have to pay for certain items so you can work, Social Security does not count the cost of certain impairment-related items and services from your gross earnings when we decide if your work is substantial gainful activity (SGA). It does not matter if you also use these items and services for non-work activities. Examples of items that can be deducted include medicine, medical devices, service animals and disposable items such as bandages and syringes. Learn more about impairment–related work expenses.

Income Exclusion

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), not everything you receive is considered to be income. Generally, if the item received cannot be used as, or to obtain, food or shelter, it will not be considered as income. For example, if someone pays your medical bills, or offers free medical care, or if you receive money from a social services agency that is a repayment of an amount you previously spent, that value is not considered to be income by Social Security. In addition, some items that are considered to be income are excluded when determining the amount of a person’s benefit. Learn more about Income Exclusion or Earned Income Exclusion.

Individual Employment Plan/Individual Work Plan/Individualized Plan for Employment

A roadmap-like plan to help you reach your employment goals. It is a required document prepared and signed by you and your service provider that will show Social Security that you and your service provider are going to work together. Different service providers call this plan by a different name or use slightly different wording. Learn more about Individual Work Plans.

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Medicaid, continued eligibility

After you return to work, your Medicaid coverage can continue, even if your earnings (alone or in combination with your other income) become too high for a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cash payment. You need to meet certain requirements, which can vary state by state. Learn more about additional health care help for people with disabilities, common myths about work and Medicaid and Medicaid rules for Social Security disability beneficiaries in the Red Book.

Medicare, continuation of

If you earn enough that your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments stop, you can still continue to receive Medicare for more than seven years (at least 93 months) after you use your nine-month Trial Work Period. If you are under age 65, disabled, and no longer entitled to free Medicare Hospital Insurance Part A because you successfully returned to work, you may be eligible for a program that helps pay your Medicare Part A monthly premium. Learn more about additional health care help for people with disabilities, common myths about work and Medicare and Medicare rules for Social Security disability beneficiaries in the Red Book.

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When Social Security has paid you more than you should have been paid in accordance with the rules of your benefits. Learn how to prevent overpayments through wage reporting.

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Partnership Plus

When state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies partner with Employment Networks (ENs) to provide ongoing job support to help Ticket to Work Program participants to maintain success on the job. If you have been getting job help through a VR, you can assign your Ticket to an EN of your choice to receive these additional services after VR services have ended. Learn more about Partnership Plus.

Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

A written plan, approved by Social Security, to help you achieve a specific work goal. While on a PASS, Social Security allows you to set aside money to pay for the items or services you need to achieve your work goal. Social Security does not count the income or assets you set aside, while on the PASS, when they determine your eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or how much you will receive each month if you are already receiving SSI. People use PASS plans to pay for education costs; a computer for school or work; transportation costs; start-up costs for a business; a car, and more. PASS plans are a great option, but they can be complicated. We recommend you get help writing your PASS. Help may be available through a local WIPA, EN or VR. Learn more about creating a PASS and using your PASS.

Post-Employment Support

Support services and continued access to resources such as job training and counseling after you are working.

Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS)

Legal support, advocacy and information to help you resolve disability employment-related concerns. PABSS helps people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Learn more about the PABSS program.

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Red Book

The reference on employment-related rules for Social Security disability benefits and the policies in place to help beneficiaries like you reach your work goals. The book is a guide to Work Incentives, and other disability-related policies and programs like Ticket to Work. Access the Red Book here.


A written document that lists your experiences, training and/or education. Résumés are typically in a format that a potential employer can quickly review to assess your qualifications for a job.

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Schedule A

A rule that gives the government permission to hire people with significant disabilities for jobs, without requiring them to compete against non-disabled jobseekers. Learn more about Schedule A jobs.


When a person works for himself or herself, instead of for an employer who pays a salary or wage.

Service Provider

A person or group working with Social Security to help you find your path to work. Service providers may offer help such as career planning, benefits counseling, job placement, training or legal advocacy. Read more about different kinds of service providers and the resources they offer.

Section 503

Special rules that require companies doing business with the federal government take action to recruit, employ, train and promote qualified individuals with disabilities. Learn more about Section 503.


Supplemental Security Income, or a program that pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. Learn more about SSI benefits.


Social Security Disability Insurance, or a program that pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured," meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Learn more about SSDI benefits.

Student Earned Income Exclusion for SSI

A Work Incentive that allows a blind or disabled child, who is a student regularly attending school, college, university or a course of vocational or technical training, to have limited earnings that are not counted against his or her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. View income limits here.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

When a person - is earning more than a certain monthly amount. Social Security uses SGA as one of the factors to decide if a person is eligible for disability benefits. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person's disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals. Usually each year Social Security adjusts this amount to a different rate. Learn more about Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).

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Ticket to Work

A program that provides people receiving Social Security disability benefits (beneficiaries) more choices for receiving employment services. Through this program, people age 18 through 64 who receive SSDI or SSI benefits based on disability may choose to assign their tickets to an Employment Network (EN), Workforce (WF) Employment Network or Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency of their choice to obtain free employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, or other support services necessary to achieve a vocational (work) goal. The service provider, if they accept the ticket, will coordinate and provide appropriate services to help the beneficiary find and maintain a job. Use these five ways to learn more about Ticket to Work.

Timely Progress

Achieving specific goals of work and earnings, or education, leading toward becoming and staying employed, lowering your dependence on SSDI or SSI payments or earning your way off cash benefits if possible.

Timely Progress Review

If you are participating in the Ticket to Work Program, Social Security will regularly review whether you are making "timely progress" towards specific work goals. If you are no longer making progress towards your work goals, you may become subject to medical Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR). Learn more about Timely Progress Review.

Trial Work Period

A timeframe that allows SSDI beneficiaries to test your ability to work for at least nine months. During this timeframe, you will receive full SSDI benefits no matter how much you earn – as long as your work activity is reported and you have a disabling impairment. Trial Work Period months can be non-consecutive within a 5 year period. Learn more about the Trial Work Period in the Red Book.


On choosework.ssa.gov, these are online lessons that can be taken any time, as fast or as slow as you want. Most tutorials take 30 minutes or less to complete. Start a tutorial today to learn more.

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Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies

State services that may offer intensive training, education, rehabilitation and other job supports for people with disabilities who want to work. Also referred to as State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies. Learn more about services offered at VR agencies.

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Wage reporting

Keeping Social Security informed about how much money you are making while receiving Social Security disability benefits. When a beneficiary begins working they must report income changes to Social Security as soon as possible to accurately adjust their Social Security disability benefits (SSDI/SSI) and reduce the risk of an overpayment. Beneficiaries must inform Social Security as soon as possible when one of the following changes occurs:

  • Work starts or stops
  • Employment that has already been reported to Social Security has a change in duties, hours or pay
  • A beneficiary starts paying for expenses that are needed to complete work due to the disability. For more information see the entry on Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE) above

Beneficiaries, or a representative payee or deemor may report wages through an automated Payroll Information Exchange (PIE). Both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients may be able to report their wages online with a my Social Security account. SSI recipients can also report wages through a toll free, automated, telephone system.

Beneficiaries may report all changes to work activity by phone, fax, mail, in person or by using my Social Security.

WISE Webinars

Work Incentive Seminar Events, or WISE webinars, are a live online presentation for those interested in learning about Ticket to Work, Work Incentives and other disability employment related topics. During WISE Webinars you view on your computer while you listen on the phone. Most webinars are 90 minutes. Sign up for the next Ticket to Work WISE webinar here.

Workforce (WF) Employment Networks

Employment Networks (ENs) that are also part of a state's public workforce system. Learn more about Workforce (WF) ENs.

Work Incentives

Special benefits rules that make it easier for people with disabilities who receive Social Security benefits (SSDI and/or SSI) to work and still receive Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security cash benefits. Learn more about Work Incentives.

Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA)

Groups in your community that offer free benefits counseling to Social Security disability beneficiaries to help you make informed choices about work. Lean more about Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA).