Want to work? Program erases barriers, worries for disabled adults on SSI and SSDI

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Ticket to Work, a free program of the nonprofit organization Workforce Snohomish, helps the county's disabled adults get gainful employment with career development opportunities and accurate information on impacts to SSI and SSDI benefits.
For people depending on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, there's a bog of confusion regarding benefits, how to get back to work, how to map a career path, and what to put on a resume.
Transitioning to the workforce can be tough. That's where Tyson Kuntz comes in. Kuntz is the Education and Employment Navigator at the county's Ticket to Work office in Everett. Participants in the program are known as "ticket holders."
Kuntz is a certified Social Security benefits planner who helps disabled job seekers with their goals by developing a career map, building their resumes and connecting them with job placement agencies.
He clarifies rumors and confusion surrounding SSI and SSDI. But most importantly, he helps remove the fears surrounding impacts to benefits if you rejoin the workforce.
A concern for disabled people when finding work is that they’ll lose their benefits as soon as they start working or cannot renew them if something goes wrong, but that is not the case.
“I hear it all the time through customers and clients. There are safety nets in place; your benefits are not automatically cut off,” Kuntz said.
According to Kuntz, with SSI, the first $85 is excluded — essentially ignored when offsetting benefits — from a person’s earnings, and then the rest of the benefit is reduced 50 cents for every dollar in earned income. Say if you earn $1,085 a month, then the first $85 is ignored and the remaining $1,000 causes a person’s beneift to be deducted by $500.
For SSDI, after a nine-month trial work period people are still eligible for their benefit as long as they keep their earnings under $1,350 a month.
The payment for SSI is $841 a month. It benefits people who are disabled, blind or are 65 years or older with limited income and resources. Blind and disabled children also qualify for SSI.
SSDI insurance is for those unable to work due to a prolonged or disabling medical condition. This insurance is based on the recipient’s average lifetime earnings and the monthly payments average about $1,200-$1,700.
One aspect of Kuntz’s work in helping people goes beyond explaining benefits and setting up a plan to transition off them by finding programs that remove the barriers of getting to a workplace or having the training to enter career jobs.
Kuntz is continuing to grow a network of available resources. Ticket to Work has access to organizations that can help with transportation and technology needs and job placement.
Kuntz has been with Ticket to Work for eight years, the last three as a full employee. As a former ticket holder, he has a unique insight into helping clients fulfill their goals. Kuntz was initially hired at Ticket to Work through AmeriCorps.
“Since roughly 2013, the Ticket to Work Program has had 126 ticket holders, and out of those, we’ve had 77 become employed,” he said.
He holds a free informational workshop about Ticket to Work every second and fourth Monday from 10 a.m. to noon over the internet and at WorkSource Everett, inside Everett Station at 3201 Smith Ave., Room 313. The next workshop is Nov. 28.
For more information, contact Tyson Kuntz’s office at 425-921-3463 or Tyson.Kuntz@workforcesnohomish.org or visit www.workforcesnohomish.org/ttw/ People who use teletype TTY can call 711 toll-free to reach Workforce Snohomish.
If you’re interested in receiving text messages from the Ticket Program, text TICKET to 474747 and the Social Security Administration will send you information.