Work Without Limits Administrative Employment Network: Building Capacity Where it is Needed Most

Employment can enrich the lives of people with disabilities by providing better financial security, and more fulfilling personal and social experiences. The Social Security Administration (SSA) understands this and knows that many people with disabilities who are seeking employment face unique barriers. To reduce some of these barriers, Social Security created the free and voluntaryTicket to Work (TTW) program that provides supports for individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits based on their specific needs and employment goals, as well as payments to organizations or employers who are assisting or employing them.

The SSA TTW program:

  • Assists job seekers with disabilities to access services they may need to obtain or retain employment such as job coaching, counseling, training and placement as well as benefits counseling and other employment supports through SSA-approved employment service providers called ‘Employment Networks’ (ENs)
  • Provides job seekers with disabilities financial supports called ‘work incentives’ that allow individuals to earn more (up to certain income levels), receive public benefits longer (e.g. Medicare and Medicaid) and, if needed, reinstate their benefits quicker
  • Provides participating ENs such as community-based vocational rehabilitation providers, One-Stop Career Centers, and employers of individuals with disabilities ‘outcome payments’ as individuals achieve earning milestones from working

Individuals with disabilities often receive Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in the form of monthly payments from Social Security.  Individuals between the ages of 18-64 who receive SSDI or SSI benefits are automatically eligible to participate in the TTW program. Under this program, individuals can connect with (“assign their ticket to”) an approved employment service provider (EN) of their choice. However, Social Security’s rules about working while receiving benefits are complex and often result in confusion, frustration and multiple questions around how working can and will impact public benefits.

One of the challenges for ENs under the TTW program is understanding the work rules and complexities of Social Security’s disability benefit programs. Another challenge for ENs is the significant amount of administrative resources it takes to manage and implement the TTW program, including but not limited to requesting and tracking payments from SSA. Many employment service providers and employers do not have the time, capacity or expertise to operate successfully as an EN, therefore, have decided not to participate in the program at all. As a result, they forego the SSA outcome payments that they could be drawing down through the program for the work they are already doing supporting and/or hiring individuals with disabilities. This is where Work Without Limits comes in!

Work Without Limits builds the capacity of employment service providers and employers to help advance the employment of people with disabilities. We fill niche needs that are not being filled by any other entity. In 2014, Work Without Limits recognized the educational and administrative challenges associated with the TTW program and created the Work Without Limits Administrative Employment Network (WWL AEN).

Here’s how it works …

For employment service providers, One-Stop Career Centers and employers

Through a simple Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), employment service providers, One Stop Career Centers, and employers can become partners in the WWL AEN. WWL AEN partners do what they have always done and continue to do, i.e., employ people with disabilities or support them to obtain and retain employment. With our technical assistance, our partners also identify and refer individuals to us that meet the specific criteria for the TTW program. What does WWL do? We manage all the technical and administrative aspects of the program up to and including drawing down payments from Social Security, which we then share with our AEN partners! We provide free:

  • Comprehensive administrative support including verifying and enrolling eligible individuals with disabilities into the program, generating outcome payments, and all other requirements of the TTW program
  • Expert, technical assistance and staff education regarding the WWL AEN referral process
  • Expert, technical assistance and staff education regarding the impact of working on public benefits
  • Ongoing support to eligible employees with disabilities, enhancing an employer’s overall benefits package and disability inclusive messaging

Our growing list of partnering organizations include:

Alternatives Unlimited

Bay Cove, Inc.

The Bridge of Central Massachusetts

Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Community Health Link

Franklin Hampshire Career Center

Genesis Club, Inc.

Riverside Community Care

The Transformation Center

Triangle, Inc.


Viability (Formerly Community Enterprises and Human Resources Unlimited)

To learn more about becoming a partner of the WWL AEN or making a referral, contact Peter Travisano, WWL AEN Program Manager.

For individual with disabilities eligible for the TTW program

The WWL AEN provides each person who enrolls in our AEN with long-term and intensive benefits counseling.  We work with individuals every step of the way as they transition from being on public benefits to fully relying on income from work, which is the goal of the Ticket to Work program! The WWL AEN specializes in navigating the Social Security system, answering the complex questions that arise, and more!

For individuals, the WWL AEN provides free:

  • Personalized, detailed, and long-term benefits counseling related to Social Security, health care benefits (Medicare and Medicaid), housing, SNAP and other public benefits before, during and after the transition to employment
  • Creation of an Individualized Work Plan (IWP), an agreement regarding individual employment goals and the supports needed to attain those goals
  • Social Security advocacy and support

For information regarding “assigning your ticket” (making a self-referral) to the WWL AEN, contact Barbara Lee, WWL AEN Intake Coordinator.

Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and Partners HealthCare: Promoting and Sustaining Disability Inclusion Through Training

Partners Healthcare and Spaulding Rehabilitation Network have always been proudly committed to disability inclusion. We’ve demonstrated this though our active participation in programs such as Project SEARCH, our partnership with the MA Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), our membership in the MA Business Leadership Network (MABLN) and our service with numerous disability employment organizations. Increasing the employment rate for individuals with disabilities across our organization is a valued goal to help us mirror the patients we serve as well as to drive innovation for future patients and the community. To help us sustain and further develop our existing efforts, we were excited to offer a three-part Disability Inclusion training series specifically for our Partners Continuing Care (PCC) Human Resources and Partners HealthCare Talent Acquisition teams. Provided as part of our ‘Campus to Careers’ partnership through the National Organization on Disability and Work Without Limits, this training strengthened our employees’ knowledge and confidence around inclusion for people with disabilities at work.

Delivered in one-hour sessions, the participants learned through discussion, interactive exercises, demonstrations and case studies. The fast-paced variety of content and learning styles kept our interest and provided opportunities to practice a sometimes intimidating and what could be high-stakes topic, in a safe and supportive environment.  The areas of Disability Sensitivity, Disability Etiquette and Interviewing Candidates with Disabilities provided a toolkit of resources and hands-on experiences to develop skills and confidence for our teams.

A very encouraging and unanticipated development happened at the end of the first training when the Vice President of Human Resources for PCC inquired about offering this exact series to the full complement of managers and leaders throughout his organization.  Before the conclusion of the initial hour he had seen the value for himself, his team and for the system.

Bonnie Rivers from Work Without Limits was our lead trainer and did a great job of presenting the material in a friendly and instructive manner.  As a supplement to the course content, she provided insights, anecdotes and coaching on various hypothetical situations. Throughout the experience, the participants felt supported and comfortable to ask questions in an open and non-judgmental environment.

Feedback from our participants was consistently positive with 100% indicating all 3 trainings “met my needs” and “would recommend to my coworkers”, emphasizing how much the team was learning and how helpful the informative and material was.  We feel empowered by what we now know, are better prepared to provide comprehensive service to employees of all abilities and look forward to our managers engaging in the same experience!

Contact WWL to explore training and/or consulting options that best fit your organization’s disabilty inclusion goals!

Reflection on Ten Years at Eversource

On May 12, 2018, I celebrated my ten-year anniversary at Eversource Energy. These years have been filled with learning, increasing my skills, and giving 100% to each job I am assigned. I am a senior customer service representative who utilizes Braille and text-to-speech technology to provide thorough assistance by phone and e-mail to colleagues and customers. By answering coworker’s questions about the adaptive methods I use, I strive to break down barriers, and make the workplace inclusive for everyone.

In the Eversource residential contact center, representatives handle three call types: moving, billing, and emergency. When I was hired, Eversource implemented the JAWS (Job Access with Speech) program and scripted it to translate the database screens used for moving calls. Typically, moving calls is not overly complex as it usually entails just cancelling service for a person leaving an address, or establishing service for a new resident. I realized moving calls could be monotonous, and requested that the database be programmed for billing calls. These calls are more involved as customers question their bills, and seek suggestions for lowering energy consumption. After feeling comfortable with billing scenarios, I asked to be trained on emergency calls. These calls are potentially life threatening as people could be reporting a gas leak, or a person could be trapped in a vehicle with wires resting on it. Each call is different which makes the workday pass quickly.

In 2017, the residential call center sought to hire a senior customer service representative. To be qualified, a person must be in the call center for three years, and must pass a stringent written/oral exam. I applied, worked collaboratively with management and human resources to make the study materials accessible, and began feverishly studying. When delivering the oral presentation, I used Braille notes, and ensured my notes corresponded with the slide on the screen. Fortunately, I passed the exams, and earned the position. As a senior customer service representative, I am now able to provide one-on-one training to other representatives, and handle escalated customer calls, which the original representative couldn’t resolve.

I am grateful Eversource chose to hire me in 2008.  Their willingness to make software accessible, and openness to my opinions when I’m challenged accessing a program, are traits which I appreciate. According to a 2016 study by Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, people with disabilities are more likely to stay with a company, and frequently have lower absenteeism than employees who are not disabled. This same study indicates that employees with disabilities bring a unique perspective, and increase the diversity of a work place. I hope my commitment to diversity, and my overall career at Eversource continues for a long time to come.