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Ticket To Work – Q&A With Kilolo Kijakazi

Share this…FacebookPinterestTwitterLinkedin Kilolo Kijakazi, Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Incapacity Coverage on the SSA Kilolo Kijakazi For greater than 20…

By Staff , in Social Security , at May 24, 2021

For greater than 20 years, the Social Safety Administration’s Ticket to Work (TTW) program has been offering return to work help, profession improvement alternatives and assist for people receiving Social Safety Incapacity Insurance coverage (SSDI). For a lot of of those people and their potential employers, the pandemic has added new obstacles for these with disabilities who need to try going again to work, notably for minorities and lower-income populations.

As we emerge from the pandemic and return to extra typical routines, I spoke with Kilolo Kijakazi, Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Incapacity Coverage on the SSA, concerning the successes, adjustments and challenges the TTW program has endured this previous yr, in addition to the optimistic affect it has had – and can proceed to have – on former staff able to rejoin the workforce, and organizations prepared to rent them.

1) The pandemic elevated disparity throughout race, gender, and revenue degree. How is TTW working to make sure financial parity for individuals with disabilities who’re minorities or from lower-income households?

The Ticket to Work program was meant to supply beneficiaries with a wider alternative of service suppliers. We have now over 700 organizations that present a variety of employment providers, advantages counseling, and authorized advocacy. Many of those organizations goal underserved communities and populations. Our problem is ensuring we’re selling these providers to those communities and we’ve got elevated our outreach efforts together with:

  • Leveraging our social media outreach to have interaction underserved populations
  • Selling our grant alternatives to organizations representing and/or led by individuals of coloration
  •  Offering authorized providers to take away obstacles to employment to individuals of coloration and underserved populations

Many people receiving incapacity advantages are members of low-income households and households of coloration. Those that are capable of return to work can enhance their revenue.

2) Allsup not too long ago surveyed SSDI candidates and located that many endure elevated monetary and emotional pressure whereas ready for advantages, corresponding to borrowing cash from household, lacking bank card or mortgage funds, and experiencing nervousness or melancholy. As an knowledgeable in structural racism who has studied the racial wealth hole, what extra obstacles do individuals of coloration have to beat in the event that they expertise a life-altering incapacity that stops them from working and wish to use for help?  

A incapacity can compound the financial challenges of individuals of coloration who’re already dealing with financial disparities. Systemic obstacles within the labor market together with persistent employment discrimination lead to staff of coloration, particularly girls of coloration, dealing with greater charges of unemployment, decrease wages, and occupational segregation than white staff at each degree of schooling. Structural racism additionally drives the racial wealth hole, leading to individuals of coloration having few assets with which to maintain themselves within the occasion {that a} incapacity interrupts their skill to work. Furthermore, racism is among the drivers of hostile well being outcomes for individuals of coloration. Much less entry to software assist providers from community-based caseworkers to assist their purchasers with the incapacity software course of, wanted medical care, and the related medical information are all potential obstacles that analysis suggests are extra doubtless in communities of coloration and may stop individuals from making use of for federal advantages, for which they’re eligible. Different analysis has proven that entry to native Social Safety workplaces can have an effect on purposes. That’s the reason the company’s current concentrate on elevated outreach and bettering non-office-based helps is so necessary (see Folks Serving to Others, at, for anybody who might help one other individual with accessing Social Safety’s packages and providers and the place all associate teams can entry informational supplies to share by means of their networks, together with assets tailor-made to particular weak populations).

3) What are the most important obstacles that preserve individuals with disabilities from returning again to the workforce? How are the obstacles completely different for ladies and minority teams?

The highest motive cited by beneficiaries and recipients for not working is their well being, in line with our Nationwide Beneficiary Survey. Amongst African American and Hispanic beneficiaries, the shortcoming to discover a job matching their {qualifications} was barely greater than amongst whites. African People had been extra more likely to cite lack of dependable transportation as a barrier, and for ladies, serving as care supplier was a big barrier. Moreover, worry of shedding advantages together with shedding well being care through Medicaid, is a considerable barrier amongst all populations. Because of this we promote our work incentives that are particular guidelines permitting beneficiaries to attempt work with out having to fret about shedding their advantages and medical insurance coverage protection.

Limitations additionally embrace the identical obstacles to discovering a job within the first place—restricted entry to transportation, job coaching wants, interview apparel, childcare, and different challenges. Ticket to Work program Employment Networks (EN) and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) businesses could present free help with assembly a few of these obstacles or provide details about different assets that will help people in fixing these challenges. Nevertheless, Ticket to Work can’t clear up discrimination within the labor market. We have now to work collaboratively with different businesses to deal with this.

4) What challenges has the TTW program confronted throughout the pandemic and the way has it tailored to assembly its objectives of serving to people with disabilities return to work?

Just like Social Safety’s total expertise, the Ticket to Work program quickly shifted to a digital mannequin and was capable of preserve the Ticket to Work name middle and different core enterprise features with minimal disruption. The pandemic had a very giant affect on small companies, which definitely affected the power of our beneficiaries find work and retaining jobs. Many of the Ticket to Work program’s employment assist providers suppliers switched to offering distant providers and plenty of are concentrating on work-at-home job alternatives for his or her purchasers.

We all know many people with disabilities skilled current job losses as a result of COVID-19, and this consists of our beneficiaries. Many beneficiaries work in industries that skilled giant job losses. We proceed to function the Ticket to Work program in good and dangerous financial instances, however we count on that because the labor market improves we could start to see the demand for service enhance. We have now to work to make sure that hiring will probably be equitable for our beneficiaries because the financial system recovers.

5) The financial system is slowly recovering, however unemployment stays excessive. The Biden administration has deliberate to supply greater tax credit to employers that rent these with disabilities. What are the SSA’s priorities and plans to create a extra inclusive workforce for individuals with disabilities?  How else can we incentivize employers to create various and inclusive workplaces, each racially and incapacity inclusive?

Social Safety shares the objectives of the Biden administration and can work with them to implement their priorities. The Division of Labor and different businesses could have a bigger function in working immediately with employers, however we are going to seek the advice of with and assist them as a lot as doable to advance fairness in employment.  

6) How can individuals maximize the TTW advantages? Are there parts which might be underutilized?

Offering beneficiaries entry to advantages counseling, details about Social Safety’s work incentives, and employment assist providers (job placement, resume writing, and so on.) are key to maximizing the Ticket to Work program’s effectiveness.

The Ticket to Work program at the moment has 82 Work Incentives Planning and Help (WIPA) organizations nationwide offering free advantages counseling and work incentives data to beneficiaries with disabilities. Work incentives are particular guidelines making it doable for individuals with disabilities receiving Social Safety or Supplemental Safety Earnings to work and nonetheless obtain month-to-month funds and Medicare or Medicaid. These guidelines are complicated and it’s important for beneficiaries to have a skilled knowledgeable to assist clarify how these guidelines work.

We additionally fund 57 Safety and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Safety (PABSS) organizations nationwide offering free authorized advocacy to take away obstacles to employment corresponding to discriminatory hiring practices.

On the coronary heart of the Ticket to Work program are the free employment assist providers. SSDI beneficiaries who’re focused on studying about this system and fascinated about returning to work can entry both state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) providers or providers from an Employment Community (EN) of their selecting. We have now a web site and devoted name middle to assist people study concerning the Ticket to Work program and seek for an EN or VR service supplier: and and 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY).

7) What are TTW’s objectives for 2021 and the way do you hope to revise this system?

Social Safety is working to implement President’s Biden’s government order on Advancing Racial Fairness and Help for Underserved Communities By the Federal Authorities, together with within the Ticket to Work program. We’re looking for alternatives to boost Ticket to Work’s footprint in underserved communities. For instance, in 2021 we’re re-competing the WIPA grants and selling the WIPA grants alternative by means of channels designed to advertise consciousness amongst certified companies of coloration and establishments serving individuals of coloration.

Moreover, we are going to award a brand new 5-year Ticket Program Supervisor contract this yr. This contract, required by legislation, assists Social Safety in operational, program integrity, advertising and marketing and social media, and Employment Community recruitment actions. As soon as awarded, we are going to use social media to advertise outreach associated to the Ticket to Work program to underserved communities. We will even determine methods to focus on companies owned by individuals of coloration to develop into Employment Networks who could assist us enhance our attain inside their communities to supply employment assist providers to beneficiaries with disabilities looking for to return to work.

We’re planning analysis that can enable us to study from potential contributors and present beneficiaries what they could view as deterrents to program participation. We are going to use this data to extend participation charges and the effectiveness of this system.

Because the COVID-19 vaccine turns into extra broadly obtainable and the financial system continues to get well, we count on extra beneficiaries with disabilities could start looking for work, and the Ticket to Work program will probably be able to assist them once they do.

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