Benefits Planning and Employment: Get that Job

by Disability Network Employment Specialist Specialist John Burtrum

Employment Services     Resources 

There are a lot of concerns and questions for those who wish to obtain employment while also receiving Social Security benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. How much can I make? Will I lose my Medicare or Medicaid if I work? How do I report my income to Social Security? Is it worth it to work or will I just lose money overall?  For people with disabilities wanting to return to work or obtain work for the first time it is important for them to understand the available work incentives, resources, tools and programs that are available to help them with their journey into the working world. Some common misconceptions and or fears of working while receiving Social Security benefits is that you will automatically have benefits terminated, be penalized, lose your health insurance (Medicare/Medicaid), that you will have to pay back any earned income from employment and lastly that you are not allowed to work at all. This is enough to deter people with disabilities on pursuing employment, not to mention the physical and mental barriers that also may exist for work opportunities in their communities. There are answers and support for this endeavor. Disability Network Northern Michigan can provide Benefits Counseling and Employment services to help ensure the direction you take will be an informed one. 

At Disability Network Northern Michigan are goal is to promote a person-centered approach when providing services. Our agency has Certified Work Incentive Practitioners that can provide instruction, counseling and advocacy for people with disabilities that are looking to start employment or are currently employed. Additionally, we provide benefits counseling to ensure that people with disabilities understand their social security benefits and how earned income can affect them. The main goal is to provide all the needed tools, information and support for people with disabilities to have gainful employment and to know what to expect as they progress through this process.  

There are a lot of incentives and provisions put into place that assist those on Social Security Benefits with gainful employment. Our Employment Specialists can help locate and navigate the process of utilizing these incentives to maximize your financial outcome. The incentives are in place to help those return or start employment with safety nets and to encourage self-sufficiency. Some notable work incentives are Impairment Related Work Expenses, Student Earned Income Exclusion, Trial Work Period, Extended Period of Eligibility, Expedited Reinstatement, Freedom to Work and Continuation of Medicare Coverage. 

If you or someone you know has a disability and would like to return to work, contact the Disability Network of Northern Michigan. It can offer full employment network services under the Ticket to Work program, as well as other employment services. The Ticket to Work program is a Social Security Administration program that can help those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits return to gainful employment with the assistance of an employment network. 

If you are between the ages of 18-64, receiving a Social Security benefit because of your disability and are employed or looking for employment, Ticket to Work can assist you with many work incentives and guidance on navigating back to the workplace to achieve self-sufficiency. Assigning your ticket is voluntary and there is no fee. This process and services can be completed virtually, if necessary. 

Benefits of Using Ticket to Work 

Assistance from Employment Specialist to obtain and/or keep employment. It ensures continued employment support after you our employed, even beyond Vocational Rehabilitation services. 

Become employed and increased financial status. 

Exempt from Continuing Disability Review by Social Security Administration, as long as you are making progress towards self-sufficiency. 

Receive services such as career counseling, job search, long term employment support, benefits counseling, social security work incentive advisement and financial services/resources. 

For More Information

Disability Network Northern Michigan is the first stop for people with disabilities and their families in northern Michigan. Our mission is to promote personal empowerment and positive social change for people with disabilities. We have the tools to support you during this challenging time. Please visit for up-to-date information on our community’s response to COVID-19. 

John Burtrum is a certified work incentive practitioner and employment specialist for Disability Network of Northern Michigan in Traverse City. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Western Michigan University. He has worked with people with disabilities for over 12 years. He is committed to the person-centered approach for program planning, support and services provided to people with disabilities.

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Families First | Benefits Planning and Employment: Get that Job 

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