Return-to-work practices used in the private sector and in foreign countries reflect the understanding that some people with disabilities can and do return to work. Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) has begun to focus more on return to work, it has yet to adopt a complete strategy for implementing this new approach. The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 is expected to enhance work incentives for people with disabilities, but fundamental policy weaknesses in the Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs persist. SSA needs to develop a comprehensive return-to-work strategy that emphasizes its return-to-work incentives. In developing this strategy, SSA can supplement what it learns from the experiences of the Ticket to Work demonstrations with the return-to-work approaches of other disability systems to identify elements of a new system that could help each individual realize his or her productive potential. Adopting a comprehensive return-to-work strategy will require fundamental changes to the underlying philosophy of the DI and SSI programs.
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