Disabled Adults Discover Ticket-To-Work Program Offers Job Connections and Benefits Security
Fifteen years ago, Johnny Fajardo was involved in a tragic car accident that left him in a coma. He was not expected to survive, much less recover. But over time he did, going on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Fresno State. Out of his own struggles, he developed a passion to help others. Still, Johnny Fajardo is disabled. The accident, which caused brain injury and numerous broken bones, left him unable to do many types of work.
Since the accident, Mr. Fajardo has received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. But as he made progress in his rehabilitation, he wanted to find employment, preferably doing something to help others with disabilities. Recently, Johnny Fajardo began work as an independent contractor at the Central Valley Regional Center (CVRC) - the private, nonprofit corporation funded by the state of California to provide services to persons with developmental disabilities. Mr. Fajardo serves as part-time community activity support, working to mentor four to five clients per week.
After he found his job with CVRC, he discovered the Ticket-To-Work Program. He learned that by enrolling in the federal program, he could keep disability benefits for up to five years. While his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will decrease as his work salary increases, in the event that he is unable to work in that time period, Mr. Fajardo will be able to receive SSI cash benefits again without reapplying.
The goal of the Ticket-To-Work Program is to give disability beneficiaries the opportunity to achieve steady, long-term employment if they choose to do so. The legislation that created the program also removes barriers that previously influenced people's choices between healthcare coverage and work. Program participants are able to keep their medical coverage for eight years or more - regardless of earnings.
In the San Joaquin Valley, the Ticket-To-Work program is administered by Services for Education & Employment (SEE). Karen Davidson, the regional coordinator, first learned about Ticket-To-Work at the California Workforce Association conference in 2003. "The program was a natural fit for us because we could apply our job placement experience from years of MOVE (More Opportunities for Viable Employment) and Welfare to Work," says Ms. Davidson. Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak adds: "By providing interview training and job search assistance, the Ticket-To-Work program is also a natural extension of our educational services to the disabled."
Today, SEE is the program's only active employment network in Central California. To date, of more than 100 Social Security Disability recipients who have inquired about the program, Davidson reports that about half have found employment. To learn more about Ticket-To-Work, call (800) 540-0307.
This story originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of The News Gallery, the Tulare County Office of Education's employee newsletter.
Tulare County Office of Education
A Ticket to Success
626 North Akers Street, Visalia, CA 93291
Linda Patino, Employment Services Coordinator
(559) 730-2737 • fax: (559) 635-8754
Jim Vidak, County Superintendent of Schools
Tulare County Office of Education
All mail to: P.O. Box 5091, Visalia, CA 93278-5091
Physical address: 6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA 93277
phone: (559) 733-6300 • fax: (559) 627-5219
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