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
"From working with VR, I’d definitely consider myself successful and independent, which is very important to me. I want to be as independent as I possibly can be."
"My life now has been tremendously changed. I have confidence now and I’m being productive."
"I feel confident, I work hard, I come to work on time. I feel so much better, I feel good about the work that I’m doing."
"If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to VR ten years sooner."
"It’s a big change, and being able to feel like you can accomplish things, really living again, not just kind of surviving day-to-day."
"Anyone with a disability that can work, I think they should work. So if you have to use VR, do it, there’s no shame in it."
"Working with a counselor made me feel really grateful that the resource was there for me."
"Now that I’m working, I’m independent, I’m on my own."
"It’s not about how hard life hits you. It’s about how long you stay down."
"Everything about my life is different...I just had no idea it would be this great of a transformation."
"I wanted to be productive, I wanted to be active in the community, I wanted to put my education to use."
"Getting off of SSDI gives you many opportunities to get back to everyday living...But mostly, you can really have fun."
"I have the opportunity to go back on cash benefits, but I don’t need to."
"Getting off benefits and going to work is not that hard. Don’t give up. Follow the dreams, and your dreams can do it."
"You have to trust yourself that you can work, and that you can be successful working."
"My voc rehab counselor is the reason I’m a personal trainer today."
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