National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Supported Work Program Inspires Dancer to Keep Moving
By Barbara C. Irwin, Ticket to Work Outreach Team
Megan Riggs is just like many other young people in their late 20sóbright, ambitious and full of life. She graduated from the University of New Haven in Connecticut, with degrees in forensic science and biology and a minor in chemistry. Riggs started working and building her career. In her spare time, she enjoyed competitive ballroom dancing. Soon, however, a struggle with depression significantly impacted her life.
In January of 2008, Riggs had a major depressive episode. Her illness resulted in the loss of her job and she endured major financial struggles. She turned to Social Security disability benefits to help her keep afloat, but knew she still had the desire to become self-sufficient again. Riggs realized that it would be challenging, but she was motivated to rebuild her future through work. Knowing that she would need help and guidance, she turned to Social Security’s Ticket to Work program and Work Incentives for support on her path toward self-sufficiency.
Riggs began by reaching out to a local Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) organization that counseled her on the Ticket to Work program and the impact of work on her Social Security benefits. She learned that the program was free, voluntary and designed specifically for people who have a disability, between the ages of 18 to 64 and receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Riggs decided the program would help her find a good job and a good career that could lead to a self-supporting future and she was willing to work hard to get there with the support of her Ticket to Work team.
Once Riggs made her choice to participate in the program, she decided to work with an employment network (EN) that provided employment support and guidance. The EN helped Riggs develop an individual work plan, which laid out her work goals and what supports she would need to achieve them. Her EN also would offer her advice on career building, job placement, training and counseling. Riggs took advantage of work incentives such as a nine-month trial work period and an extended period of eligibility.
“I could try work and, if it didn’t work, I could come back and I could keep trying, so I knew I wasn't going to be on my own and that my EN was always going to be with me through the whole process,” said Riggs.
Once Riggs found stable employment, she feared that she may get sick again and lose her job or her benefits, but her EN periodically checked her work progress and encouraged her to continue striving for a financially stable and a self-sufficient life. The Ticket to Work program helped Riggs achieve a more fulfilling life through her own hard work supported by her EN, WIPA and Social Security. She now enjoys working, reading, spending time with her dogs and has even been able to return to competitive ballroom dancing.
“With Ticket to Work, I've received the tools to excel and people to keep me going. No matter what your disability is, no matter who you are or where you live, this is something that can help you move forward and to continue on with your life.”
Thousands of Social Security beneficiaries have earned more money, begun careers, learned new skills, and met new people through the Ticket to Work program. When you’re ready to change your life through work, take control with Ticket to Work. For more information on Ticket to Work and Work Incentives, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/work, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (866) 968-7842 or (866) 833-2967 (TTY/TDD).