Ticket to Work program brings employers and workers together
By Janet Stoica
People with disabilities can achieve and accomplish as much as any other employee. It’s all a matter of matching up each employer with an individual’s capability.
At Life-Skills, it is Kim Lapworth’s goal to make this happen. She is the vocational trainer for Life-Skill’s Ticket to Work (TTW) program, which is designed to provide workplace support for individuals with disabilities.
Her immediate challenge is to create awareness for the TTW program, as she says it is underutilized. She wants to get the word out to potential employees who receive SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) that they shouldn’t be afraid to explore their employment options.
The TTW program includes a safety net of assistance along with long-term support to success. “We focus on a person’s ability and not their disability,” says Ms. Lapworth. “We’ll work with potential employees and employers to come up with reasonable accommodations for both to ensure long-term success. We’re here to help people find a job and keep working.”
The Massachusetts’ Ticket to Work program allows individuals receiving SSDI benefits to work and earn money without losing their benefits. “Disabilities shouldn’t keep anyone from fulfilling their career goals.” she says. “Each individual is perfectly capable of success. There’s a place at the table for everyone.”
The Massachusetts TTW program offered through the Social Security Administration also serves individuals through Mass. Rehab. It is a voluntary program for individuals receiving SSDI and SSI benefits.
Income limits can be discussed with the TTW counselor. Individuals aged 18-64 are eligible for the TTW program. Sheltered workshops used to be the norm but as things have moved to inclusivity and integration with all of society, so too has the TTW program evolved.
Ms. Lapworth has been with Life-Skills for many years and reveals that she too has a disability. Her awareness of what other others with similar challenges face makes her an excellent mentor for anyone wanting to become a part of the labor force.
She explains that the TTW goal is to help people get back to work full-time and to transition from SSDI and SSI benefits. Potential employees are guided and assisted with their resumes and with the network of potential employers that Ms. Lapworth has successfully worked with in the area, matches are quite fruitful. “If you have motivation, then the sky’s the limit,” she says. “With some of our clients, there is no end to their ambition. They want to get out there and do their jobs. They are willing to be diligent, ensuring their success. Additionally, with all that’s gone on with COVID, employers are now looking at and beginning to value all who we work with. Our potential employees have been very reliable.”
“There are many individuals out there who would like to try to go back to work,” she said, “but they worry about their medical insurance and if other benefits will be taken away. With the TTW program, however, there’s all sorts of safety nets. If your job doesn’t work out, you can still get your benefits back. The good thing is though that once you get out there, you’ll find yourself becoming very self-sufficient.”
Life-Skills also offers a Milestone Reward Program where monetary incentives are offered after one and three months to assist the employee with everyday expenses.
“If some employees choose to disclose their disability to their employers, it’s up to them. Our goal is to help people apply for competitive employment opportunities just like everyone else. We do assist them in working with job boards like Indeed.com so they’re working just as hard as everyone else out there to find a job. Employers do receive a tax break and Federal employers are mandated to have a certain percent of employees from SSDI.”
Kim will reach out to employers regarding the benefits of having a disabled employee on their payroll. She will brainstorm with the employer to assist in accommodating the employee. It’s a win-win situation. “If someone has a career dream and is receiving disability assistance, give me a call. We’ll work together to make your goals happen,” said Ms. Lapworth. She can be reached from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Mon-Fri at (508) 943-0700, Ext. 2171.
Email: [email protected] Life-Skills, Inc., 44 Morris Street, Webster MA
Contact Janet: [email protected]