Lived Experiences: From SSDI to Employment

In this section, we share the stories of people receiving SSDI who decided to go back to work, in order to show firsthand what it’s like to take that employment journey. We wanted to know:

  • What drives people receiving SSDI to seek employment?
  • What is important for the employment process to succeed, and where does VR come in?
  • How do people’s lives change once they return to work?

In order to answer these questions, we needed to hear directly from the experts – the people taking that journey – to gather their stories and perspectives. We did this through two video series and a follow-along qualitative research study.

  • Video Series. We traveled around the country to produce a series of videos in which people tell their own stories of returning to work and going off SSDI. We did this twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the SGA Project. In these videos, people share how their lives have changed since returning to work, as well as advice for others beginning that journey.  
    • SGA Project Success Videos. As the project came to an end, we spoke with several people who had been helped by the VR agencies in Minnesota and Kentucky during the SGA Project. In these videos, you’ll hear about the process they went through with their team of VR professionals to return to full employment.
    • Exploratory Videos. As we began this project, we wanted to learn what was important to people as they returned to work, to help us develop a model that would best support that process. In these videos, people from Maryland and Massachusetts talk about reaching their goals and dreams for employment and beyond.
  • Qualitative Research Study. We conducted a rigorous qualitative research study, using a series of in-depth, confidential interviews with 48 SSDI beneficiaries who were seeking help from their VR agencies in Minnesota and Kentucky. From this project, we learned what drives people on SSDI to return to work and their perspectives on the employment process. Through a CRCC-eligible webcast, we share several common themes around these decisions, with stories and quotes from the study participants about their own experiences.

Each person has a unique story to tell. Click on the videos below to hear their stories.

SGA Project Success Videos

Exploratory Videos


What changed in these states? The Kentucky and Minnesota VR agencies improved their outcomes by:

  • Increasing the pace of services
  • Assisting with financial and benefits planning
  • Providing job placement services early in the process
  • Using a coordinated team approach


Share these videos so everyone can see that fulfilling employment is a reality. And don't miss any new stories: Follow the conversation on social media, using #ReturnToWorkSSDI


The SGA Project is funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education Grant # H235L100004