karenKaren Govia: “Ticket to Work Gave Me a Second Chance”

Based on an article by Candace Moody, CareerSource Northeast Florida

Looking for work almost ended my career for good. I had moved back home to Winter Haven, Florida from Jacksonville in 2008 to look for work. I was driving back from a job interview in Tampa when I was rear-ended. The serious accident left me with cervical and lumbar injuries and severe and constant pain. It would be almost four years before I worked again.

I moved in with my sister while I recovered and tried to figure out what to do next. My pain made it impossible to sit for extended periods and perform the data entry and clerical tasks I’d been doing before I was injured. I had no income, no work, and no prospects. “It was a very dark time for me,”  Her application for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) took about 18 months to be approved. Meanwhile, I was dependent on the generosity of her family for support and a place to live. “Thank goodness my children were grown and not dependent on me; we would have been homeless and desperate.” In 2010, I received notice from the Social Security Administration that I’d been assigned a Ticket to Work.

It took me several months before I seriously considered using the Ticket to Work. I was very leery about looking into it. It had taken me so long to be approved for benefits; I was really worried about losing the only support I had. I also had it in my mind that you were either disabled or able to work; I didn’t think you could be both.”

Finally, I went to CareerSource Polk to learn more about my Ticket to Work. The disability specialist on staff there helped me understand how Ticket to Work would allow me to see if I could hold down a job without putting my benefits at risk.

My first job offer was a minimum wage receptionist position, but I jumped on it. I gained confidence and current work experience during my eight-month tenure. In 2011, I received a settlement from her accident, which made it possible for me to move back to Jacksonville and start my life and career over. In December of 2011, I started work as a receptionist at CareerSource Northeast Florida.

My nine-month trial employment period ended with a permanent job at CareerSource Northeast Florida. I transitioned off cash assistance from SSDI and ended her dependence on Medicaid when I was eligible for health coverage from my employer. I now work as part of the business services team, and I really feel like I have received a second chance at living a productive life.

Advice From a Young Professional

The Basics

So you’ve decided that you want to work and that you can work.  You know how your benefits will change. You know that you are eligible for the Ticket to Work, but what exactly IS the ticket to work?

The Ticket to Work is like a safety net that Social Security has given you, with the clear message that if you want to go back to work, Social Security will help you. By connecting you to valuable work resources, it also helps you keep some if not all or your Social Security Benefits.

The goals of the Ticket to Work Program are to:

  • Offer those with disabilities choices when seeking services and supports to enter, re-enter, and/or maintain employment,
  • Increase the financial independence and self-sufficiency of beneficiaries with disabilities, and
  • Reduce and eventually eliminate reliance on disability benefits.