March 16, 2004 – An estimated 1,600 Virgin Islanders currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits may find themselves able to reclaim their place in the workforce soon because of the territorywide implementation of a voluntary Social Security Administration initiative entitled Ticket to Work.
Created as part of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Act of 1999, TTW was designed to help those dependent upon disability insurance obtain the resources, training and other services they might need to get back to work.
Since roll-out of the program began early in 2002, close to 4,000 permanently disabled individuals nationwide have received the assistance they've needed to prepare for and find gainful employment, according to the SSA Web site.
Locally this program is being supported by Virgin Islands Advocacy, a private nonprofit organization whose mission, according to its director, Amelia LaMont, "is to advance the legal, civil, and human rights of people with disabilities."
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday to announce VIA's new publication, "Guide to Using the Ticket," LaMont explained to a crowd of representatives from local agencies and government departments that the program will work in four stages.
First, the SSA sends out "tickets" to all of the qualified SSDI beneficiaries in the territory. The ticket contains all of the information a beneficiary will need to get the ball rolling, and if he or she has a desire to work, then it's on to step two.
In this stage, the ticket holder can call VIA and obtain help in choosing a Benefits Planner to help assess the beneficiary's situation, past work and educational experience, as well as current needs and goals. Armed with this information, the Benefits Planner and the person seeking work can together make an informed decision about how best to pursue a return to employment.
In step three, the beneficiary chooses an Employment Network, again with the help of the Benefits Planner, and signs an Individual Work Plan that will outline specific goals and the services the EN will provide to see those goals through. As stated in VIA's new guide, an EN is "any government or private employment agency" certified by Maximus, a private company that has been contracted by SSA to help administer the Ticket program.
The beneficiary then assigns his or her ticket to the EN, and any education and special training that is required will commence – all of this with the continued counseling and assistance of the Benefits Planner.
After that, it's a matter of finding a job.
One of the strong points of the Ticket program, according to LaMont, "is that beneficiaries will have time – up to five years – to make the transition back to the workplace. And during those five years, as long as the beneficiaries continue to make progress, they can continue to collect benefits."
"This is our kickoff," Lamont said at the press conference. "We're just trying to get the word out there."
If you believe that you or someone you know might qualify for this program, Virgin Islands Advocacy urges you to call 772-1200.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice.. click here.