[Federal Register Volume 72, Number 155 (Monday, August 13, 2007)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 45191-45199]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E7-15715]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

20 CFR Part 411

[Docket No. SSA-2006-0084]
RIN 0960-AG44


Improvements to the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program

AGENCY: Social Security Administration.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We are proposing to revise our regulations for the Ticket to 
Work and Self-Sufficiency Program (Ticket to Work program), authorized 
by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. The 
Ticket to Work program provides beneficiaries with disabilities 
expanded options for access to employment, vocational rehabilitation, 
and other support services. The program is an important part of the 
comprehensive SSA work opportunity initiative which is focused on 
helping beneficiaries with disabilities who want to work to do so. We 
are proposing revisions to our

[[Page 45192]]

current Ticket to Work program rules to simplify and improve the 
definition of ``using a ticket'' and our related requirements for 
measuring ``timely progress toward self-supporting employment.''

DATES: To be sure your comments are considered, we must receive them by 
October 12, 2007.

ADDRESSES: You may give us your comments by: using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov; e-mail to 
regulations@ssa.gov; FAX to (410) 966-2830; or letter to the 
Commissioner of Social Security, P.O. Box 17703, Baltimore, MD 21235-
7703. You may also deliver them to the Office of Regulations, Social 
Security Administration, 107 Altmeyer Building, 6401 Security 
Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235-6401, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on 
regular business days. You may also inspect the comments on regular 
business days by making arrangements with the contact person shown in 
the preamble.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan O'Brien, Office of Employment 
Support Programs, Social Security Administration, 107 Altmeyer 
Building, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235-6401, e-mail to 
regulations@ssa.gov, or telephone (410) 597-1632 or TTY (410) 966-5609 
for information about these rules. For information on eligibility or 
filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 
or TTY 1-800-325-0778, or visit our Internet site, Social Security 
Online, http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Electronic Version

    The electronic file of this document is available on the date of 
publication in the Federal Register at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/
index.html.

Background

The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999

    Public Law 106-170 was enacted on December 17, 1999. This law added 
section 1148 of the Social Security Act (Act), which directs the 
Commissioner of Social Security to establish the Ticket to Work 
program. Congress provided for the establishment of the Ticket to Work 
program to provide beneficiaries with a ``real choice in obtaining the 
services and technology they need to find, enter, and maintain 
employment'' in order to ``greatly improve their short and long-term 
financial independence and personal well-being'' (section 2(a)(10) of 
Pub. L. No. 106-170, 113 Stat. 1860, 1863). These proposed revisions to 
our regulations are based on our experience implementing the existing 
rules and comments made in response to our request for comment in the 
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that we published on September 30, 
2005 (70 FR 57222, 57227). In that NPRM, we asked for comment on, among 
other things, whether and how we should simplify the definition of 
``using a ticket'' and on how we might revise the timely progress 
requirements set forth in our current rules.
    As part of the Ticket to Work program, the Commissioner of Social 
Security (the Commissioner) issues a ``ticket'' to eligible Social 
Security disability beneficiaries and to eligible disabled or blind 
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries for participation in 
the program. In this voluntary program, each beneficiary receiving a 
ticket has the option of using that ticket to obtain services from a 
provider known as an employment network (EN) or from a State vocational 
rehabilitation (VR) agency. ENs may also choose to whom they provide 
services. If the beneficiary and an EN or State VR agency agree to work 
together, the beneficiary and the EN or State VR agency will develop 
either an individual work plan (IWP) or an individualized plan for 
employment (IPE) which outlines any employment services, vocational 
rehabilitation services, and other support services necessary to assist 
the beneficiary to obtain and ultimately maintain self-supporting 
employment. The EN or State VR agency will provide, without charge to 
the beneficiary, the services outlined in the IWP or IPE. If the 
beneficiary achieves certain work outcomes, we will pay the EN or State 
VR agency for those outcomes based on an established payment schedule.

Issues Addressed in These Proposed Rules

    These proposed changes to our rules on ``using a ticket'' and the 
related timely progress requirements are integral to the operation of 
the Ticket to Work program and are essential to the overall changes we 
proposed for the program in the September 30, 2005 NPRM. We anticipate 
issuing one comprehensive final regulation covering the matters 
addressed in the 2005 NPRM and in this NPRM. In this NPRM, we are 
proposing changes to our rules for the Ticket to Work program in areas 
that were not addressed in the September 2005 NPRM. We describe the 
main changes we are proposing below:
     So that the program will be more accessible to 
beneficiaries who require additional training to return to work, we 
propose to add requirements for educational or technical training to 
supplement the work requirements under the timely progress guidelines 
for beneficiaries;
     We propose to revise the work requirements under the 
timely progress guidelines and the documentation and other requirements 
for progress reviews to simplify and streamline the process for 
determining whether a beneficiary is making timely progress toward 
self-supporting employment;
     We propose to eliminate the current ``initial 24-month 
period'' after ticket assignment during which a beneficiary is 
considered to be making timely progress if actively participating in 
his or her employment plan;
     We propose to replace this 24-month period with two 
successive 12-month progress certification periods during each of which 
the beneficiary must complete either a work requirement of an 
educational or technical training requirement in order to be considered 
to be making timely progress until the next scheduled progress review; 
and
     We propose to recognize one-stop delivery systems 
established under the program of the U.S. Department of Labor under 
subtitle B of title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 as 
qualified ENs.

''Using a Ticket'' and Related Timely Progress Rules

    Section 1148(i) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1320b-19(i)) 
provides that ``[d]uring any period for which an individual is using * 
* * a ticket to work and self-sufficiency issued under this section, 
the Commissioner (and any applicable State agency) may not initiate a 
continuing disability review * * *.'' Section 1148(i) also directs the 
Commissioner to define the term ``using a ticket'' for this purpose. 
Our current rules (Sec.  411.170) provide that ``[t]he period of using 
a ticket begins on the effective date of the assignment of your ticket 
to an EN or State VR agency under Sec.  411.140.'' They provide in 
Sec.  411.171 that the period of using a ticket will end with the ``day 
before the effective date of a decision * * * that you are no longer 
making timely progress toward self-supporting employment.'' The period 
of using a ticket may end earlier, if certain other events occur. The 
current rules further provide in Sec.  411.180(a) that ``[w]e consider 
you to be making timely progress toward self-supporting employment when 
you show an increasing ability to work at levels

[[Page 45193]]

which will reduce or eliminate your dependence on these [disability or 
blindness] benefits.''
    Section 411.180(c) of our current rules explains the guidelines we 
use to determine whether timely progress toward self-supporting 
employment is being made. Among other things, these guidelines include 
a goal of three months of work during the 12-month period that begins 
after the 24th month following the assignment of a ticket to an EN or 
State VR agency, as described in Sec.  411.140. For subsequent 12-month 
periods, the current rules require work (as defined in Sec.  411.185) 
for at least six of the 12 months.
    We sought to balance two important objectives in establishing the 
current rules on using a ticket and related timely progress guidelines. 
First, we sought to define ``using a ticket'' in a way that should 
reduce a barrier to beneficiary participation in the program that 
arises from fear that a return to work would cause benefits to be 
terminated in a continuing disability review. Second, we sought to 
maintain the integrity of the disability programs by providing that 
beneficiaries who have medically improved do not continue to receive 
disability benefits for an undue length of time. Properly balancing 
these objectives remains our goal.
    During the comment period we provided in the September 30, 2005 
NPRM, we received numerous comments that educational programs should be 
equated with work for the purposes of determining timely progress under 
the Ticket to Work program. We agree with commenters who suggested that 
disruption of the pursuit of an education program, as our current 
requirements have the potential to do, is a counterproductive policy. 
Therefore, in this NPRM, we propose adding an educational and technical 
training requirement to supplement the work requirement, so that the 
program will be more accessible to beneficiaries who require additional 
training to return to work.
    We are also proposing to eliminate the current ``initial 24-month 
period'' during which a beneficiary is considered to be making timely 
progress toward self-supporting employment if actively participating in 
his or her employment plan. We propose to eliminate this provision 
which requires only active participation in the plan for the 
beneficiary to be considered ``using a ticket,'' and therefore 
protected from initiation of a medical continuing disability review 
(CDR), during the first two years of participation in the program. We 
also propose to eliminate the current 24-month progress review, which a 
beneficiary must successfully complete in order to continue to be 
considered making timely progress and receive CDR protection during the 
third year of participation. For CDR protection to continue, the 
program manager must determine in this review that the beneficiary is 
actively participating in the employment plan; that the plan has a work 
goal meeting the work requirement for the third year of participation; 
and that, given the beneficiary's current progress in the plan, he or 
she can reasonably be expected to reach this goal by the end of the 
third year of participation. We are also proposing to eliminate the 
second step of the current 12-month progress reviews, which requires an 
expectation by both the beneficiary and the EN or State VR agency that 
the beneficiary will work at the level required during the next 12-
month progress review period.
    We are proposing to replace the ``initial 24-month period'' with 
two successive 12-month progress certification periods during each of 
which the beneficiary must complete either a work requirement or an 
educational or technical training requirement in order to be considered 
to be making timely progress until the next scheduled progress review. 
Thus, while our current rules require a specified level of work 
beginning with the third year of participation, these proposed rules 
would require a specified level of work activity (or coursework in an 
educational or technical training program) beginning with the first 
year of participation in the Ticket to Work program.
    The table below summarizes the basic changes we are proposing to 
make to the definition of ``using a ticket'' and ``timely progress'' 
for purposes of maintaining CDR protection. In the table below, we use 
the term ``SSDI'' to refer to all categories of Social Security 
disability benefits under title II, and the term ``SSI'' to refer to 
Supplemental Security Income payments under title XVI based on 
disability or blindness.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Existing regulations                   Proposed changes
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Ticket first assigned to an EN    1. Ticket first assigned to an EN
 or State VR agency.                  or State VR agency acting as an
2A. Timely progress defined for       EN, or otherwise in use with State
 current period:                      VR agency choosing cost
 First 2 years: active        reimbursement.
 participation in plan.              2. Timely progress defined for
2B. Timely progress defined for       purposes of maintaining CDR
 purposes of maintaining CDR          protection until next scheduled
 protection until next scheduled      review.
 review.                              1st year: 3 months of work
 At the end of 2 years:       at trial work level (TWL) or 24
 successful completion of 24-month    post-secondary credit hours or 50%
 progress review.                     vocational training program.
 3rd year: 3 months           2nd year: 6 months of work
 substantial gainful activity         at TWL or 50 post-secondary credit
 (SGA).\1\                            hours or 100% vocational training
 4th year: 6 months SGA.\1\   program.
 5th year and beyond: 6       3rd year: 9 months SGA or
 months of work at level precluding   70 post-secondary credit hours.
 payment of SSDI and Federal SSI      4th year: 9 months SGA or
 benefits.\1\                         100 post-secondary credit hours.
                                      5th year: 6 months of work
                                      at level precluding payment of
                                      SSDI and Federal SSI benefits or
                                      earned a 4 year degree.
                                      6th year and beyond: 6
                                      months of work at level precluding
                                      payment of SSDI and Federal SSI
                                      benefits.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Also both beneficiary and EN or State VR agency must expect
  beneficiary will meet work requirement for next 12-month progress
  review period.

    In addition, these proposed rules address concerns expressed by ENs 
and State VR agencies that the current rules are unnecessarily 
burdensome. Comments received from some State VR agencies noted that 
the request for information received from the program manager (PM) in 
connection with a 12-month progress review under the timely progress 
guidelines required the State VR agency to submit evidence of a 
beneficiary's earnings. The commenters expressed the view that this 
represented a huge and largely unnecessary administrative burden for 
State VR agencies. Based on the comments from the State VR agencies and 
ENs, we propose to change the timely progress requirements to simplify 
reporting of information for the progress reviews. These proposed rules 
would generally

[[Page 45194]]

define ``timely progress'' based on the achievement of milestones and 
outcomes under the EN payment systems proposed in the September 30, 
2005 NPRM. The comments we received on the proposed expansion of the 
milestones were generally positive. We did not receive any negative 
comments that would cause us to change the proposed number of 
milestones or the periods and levels of work required for the 
milestones when developing final rules. The level of work and earnings 
required for outcome payments is mandated by the statute.
    In that NPRM, we proposed a two-phased milestone system. Phase 1 
milestones would be based on the beneficiary working specified periods 
of time at the trial work period level. For example, the second Phase 1 
milestone would be achieved when a beneficiary works three months and 
has earnings in each of those months at the level for a trial work 
service month. This is the same standard which we propose for the work 
requirement during the first 12-month progress certification period in 
these proposed rules. We also propose to use the trial work earnings 
level for the six months of work which would be required during the 
second 12-month progress certification period.
    A Phase 2 milestone would be achieved when a beneficiary works in a 
month and has gross earnings above the SGA threshold amount. We are 
proposing to use this same level of monthly earnings for the proposed 
nine months of work which would be required during the third and fourth 
12-month progress certification periods. The level of earnings for the 
six months of work which would be required during the fifth and 
subsequent 12-month progress certification periods would be based on 
the earnings criteria for an outcome payment month under the EN payment 
systems. An outcome payment month occurs when a beneficiary's work or 
earnings are sufficient to preclude payment of Social Security 
disability benefits and Federal SSI cash benefits.
    These proposed changes to the work requirements under the timely 
progress guidelines would allow us to determine administratively, 
without unnecessarily burdening the beneficiary or EN or State VR 
agency with requests for information, whether a beneficiary is making 
timely progress based on information in our EN/State VR agency payment 
records or our records of the beneficiary's earnings.
    These proposed rules incorporate certain aspects of the proposed 
rules in the September 2005 NPRM, which would provide that a 
beneficiary who has a ticket otherwise available for assignment and who 
is receiving services under an IPE from a State VR agency which has 
chosen to be paid under the cost reimbursement payment system will be 
considered to be ``using a ticket,'' provided that the beneficiary is 
making timely progress toward self-supporting employment. The September 
2005 NPRM also proposed that: (1) The ticket of a beneficiary in this 
situation would not be assigned to the State VR agency; (2) the 
beneficiary may assign his or her ticket after State VR services end; 
and (3) the period of using a ticket for such a beneficiary would end 
90 days after State VR services end.
    In these proposed rules, we are proposing to change the duration of 
the ``extension period'' described in Sec. Sec.  411.166 and 411.220 
from three months to 90 days. We are proposing this change to conform 
to the proposed 90-day period included in the September 2005 NPRM 
during which the ticket of a beneficiary in the situation described 
above may be considered ``in use'' after State VR services end.
    In proposed Sec.  411.226, we explain how we will apply the new 
timely progress provisions to a beneficiary who assigned his or her 
ticket prior to the effective date of the new rules. Beneficiaries 
already using a ticket assigned to a State VR agency that chose to be 
paid under the cost reimbursement payment system, may continue using a 
ticket under the new rules in subpart C. The new rules include 
provisions for transitioning to the revised timely progress guidelines.
    However, the beneficiary's ticket will no longer be considered 
assigned to that State VR agency beginning on the effective date of the 
final regulations. We also explain that the beneficiary may assign his 
or her ticket after the State VR agency has closed his or her case.

Participation of One-Stop Delivery Systems as Employment Networks

    Section 1148(f)(1)(B) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1320b-
19(f)(1)(B)) provides that an employment network serving under the 
Ticket to Work program ``may consist of a one-stop delivery system 
established under subtitle B of title I of the Workforce Investment Act 
of 1998.'' Our regulation at 20 CFR 411.305(c) states the same 
proposition. We are proposing to amend subpart E, Sec. Sec.  411.310 
and 411.315, to further state that one-stop delivery systems under 
subtitle B of title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 may 
participate in the Ticket to Work program as ENs without responding to 
our request for proposal (RFP). In light of the nature of the one-stop 
systems and the statutory reference to them, we are simplifying the 
approval process for one-stop systems. We have consulted with the 
Department of Labor, the Federal agency responsible for oversight of 
the program for the one-stop delivery systems, regarding the entities 
that comprise one-stop systems and, based on those consultations, we 
have determined they meet our EN requirements. A one-stop delivery 
system still must enter into an agreement with us to serve as an EN 
under the Ticket to Work program and must maintain compliance with the 
rules that apply to ENs. We will seek to work with the appropriate 
entities that can enter into EN agreements with us. We believe this 
change, which would eliminate the RFP process for one-stop systems, 
will provide our beneficiaries with more choices because it would 
greatly expand the number of ENs for ticket holders living in all areas 
of the United States, particularly in counties where no ENs are 
currently qualified.

Issues Addressed in September 2005 Proposed Rules and Why This Second 
NPRM Is Necessary

    On September 30, 2005, we published an NPRM (70 FR 57222) proposing 
some important changes to the existing Ticket to Work program rules. In 
that NPRM, we proposed changes to the EN payment systems to provide 
greater incentives for EN participation; to eliminate the requirement 
for assignment of a beneficiary's ticket to a State VR agency which 
chooses the cost reimbursement payment system; and to include a rule 
providing that the ticket of such a beneficiary would be assignable 
after State VR services end. We also proposed in that NPRM that, for a 
beneficiary who has a ticket which would otherwise be available for 
assignment and who is receiving services under an IPE from a State VR 
agency which has chosen the cost reimbursement payment system, the 
beneficiary will be considered to be ``using a ticket'' until 90 days 
after VR services end, provided the beneficiary is making timely 
progress toward self-supporting employment.
    In the September 2005 NPRM, we invited comments from the public on 
four additional matters. Two of these matters addressed specific 
changes in our rules proposed in the NPRM. One matter addressed in the 
NPRM concerned evidence requirements for EN payment; the other matter 
addressed payment of Phase 1 milestones after State VR services have 
been completed. We received public comments on both of these subjects, 
and will address these

[[Page 45195]]

comments in our final Ticket to Work program rules.
    The other two matters outlined in the September 2005 NPRM for which 
we invited public comments did not involve specific proposed changes to 
our current rules. (70 FR at 57227.) Rather, we requested comments on 
questions which we presented concerning whether and how we should 
proceed to develop specific proposed changes. The first of these 
questions is whether a beneficiary should be eligible for more than one 
ticket in a single period of entitlement to title II or title XVI 
benefits. Our current rules provide for only one ticket for each period 
of entitlement. A number of comments that we received in response to 
this request pointed out that, in order to sustain gainful employment, 
many beneficiaries require ongoing support services beyond the period 
of time over which Milestone or Outcome payments are made. For example, 
beneficiaries with physical disabilities may require specialized 
transportation services over an indefinite period to get to and from 
the worksite, and, thus, may require a longer period of employment 
support in order to sustain employment. We recognize the concern 
expressed by the commenters that beneficiaries in some cases may need 
ongoing supports to sustain employment beyond the period of time over 
which Milestone or Outcome payments are made. However, we have decided 
not to propose any changes to our rules in this area at this time.
    The second question on which we invited comment was whether and how 
we should simplify the definition of ``using a ticket'' under the 
Ticket to Work program and how we might best revise the timely progress 
requirements consistent with the intent of the legislation. It is 
primarily this question which we are addressing in this NPRM. As 
described earlier, this NPRM sets forth proposed changes in our rules 
to simplify the definition of ``using a ticket'' and to improve the 
related timely progress requirements. We believe that these proposed 
changes will provide greater opportunities for beneficiaries to 
participate in the Ticket to Work program and enhance their potential 
for a successful outcome.
    Since these proposed changes are integral to the overall operation 
of the Ticket to Work program, we believe that it would be unwise to 
make final changes in the areas addressed by the September 30, 2005 
NPRM before we make final changes in areas addressed by this NPRM. 
Issuing two separate final rules might both confuse our beneficiaries 
and impose a significant administrative burden on ENs and State VR 
agencies, which would be required to make two sets of operational 
changes based on two separate final rules. Accordingly, we intend to 
issue one comprehensive final rule on the Ticket to Work program in 
response to both the September 2005 NPRM and this NPRM.

Regulatory Procedures

Clarity of These Proposed Rules

    Executive Order 12866, as amended, requires each agency to write 
all rules in plain language. In addition to your substantive comments 
on these proposed rules, we invite your comments on how to make these 
proposed rules easier to understand. For example:
     Have we organized the material to suit your needs?
     Are the requirements in the rules clearly stated?
     Do the rules contain technical language or jargon that is 
not clear?
     Would a different format (grouping and order of sections, 
use of headings, paragraphing) make the rules easier to understand?
     Would more (but shorter) sections be better?
     Could we improve clarity by adding tables, lists, or 
diagrams?
     What else could we do to make the rules easier to 
understand?

Executive Order 12866

    We have consulted with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
and determined that these proposed rules are subject to OMB review 
because they meet the criteria for a significant regulatory action 
under Executive Order 12866, as amended. The Office of the Chief 
Actuary estimates that these proposed rules, if finalized in 
conjunction with the other provisions of expected final rules for the 
Ticket to Work program resulting from the NPRM published September 30, 
2005 (70 FR 57222), would reduce the total cost of the combined final 
rules. Specifically, that Office estimates that the projected increased 
program outlays which would result from the adoption of the rules 
proposed in the September 2005 NPRM, which are described in that NPRM 
in the section ``Executive Order 12866'' (70 FR at 57228), would be 
reduced by the following amounts ($ in millions) if the rules we are 
now proposing and the September 2005 proposed rules were adopted in a 
combined final rule.
    The main reason for this reduction in cost relative to the 
September 2005 proposed rules is that the current proposed rule would 
make changes to the timely progress specifications that are used to 
determine whether a ticket is in use and thus subject to certain 
protections against the possibility of benefit termination through a 
medical continuing disability review (CDR). The net effect of these 
changes is to shorten the duration of the CDR protection by about 24 
months on average.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Fiscal year                   SSDI     SSI      Total
------------------------------------------------------------------------
2008.......................................  ......     $<1          $<1
2009.......................................  ......      -1           -1
2010.......................................      -8     $<1           -8
2011.......................................     -27      -1          -27
2012.......................................     -50      -3          -53
2013.......................................     -59      -4          -63
2014.......................................     -65      -3          -68
2015.......................................     -69      -3          -72
2016.......................................     -72      -3          -75
2017.......................................     -73      -8          -82
Totals:
  2008-12..................................     -85      -5          -90
  2008-17..................................    -423     -26        -449
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 (Totals may not equal the sum of components due to rounding.)

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    We certify that these proposed rules would not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities because they 
would primarily affect only individuals and those entities that 
voluntarily enter into a contractual agreement with us. Accordingly, a 
regulatory flexibility analysis as provided in the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, as amended, is not required.

Federalism

    We have reviewed these proposed rules under the threshold criteria 
of Executive Order 13132, ``Federalism,'' and determined that they do 
not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship 
between the national government and the States, or the distribution of 
power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. 
These proposed rules will complement and enhance the existing State 
vocational rehabilitation program.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    We are proposing to amend our regulations for the Ticket to Work 
and Self-Sufficiency Program, authorized under section 1148 of the 
Social Security Act. The Ticket to Work program provides beneficiaries 
with disabilities expanded options for access to employment, vocational 
rehabilitation, and other support services. We are proposing changes to 
our current Ticket to Work program rules to simplify and improve the 
definition of ``using a ticket'' and our related requirements for 
measuring

[[Page 45196]]

``timely progress toward self-supporting employment.'' As outlined in 
the table below, proposed Sec. Sec.  411.192(b) and (c) and 411.210(b) 
require beneficiaries to submit a written request to the Program 
Manager (PM) to place a ticket in inactive status, reactivate a ticket, 
or be reinstated to in-use status. In addition, proposed Sec.  
411.200(b) requires beneficiaries, ENs and State VR agencies, when 
requested by the PM, to submit information the PM requires to determine 
if the beneficiary has met the timely progress guidelines. The 
requirement for beneficiaries to make a written request to change the 
status of their ticket, and the requirement for beneficiaries, ENs and 
State VR agencies to submit information requested by the PM, are public 
paperwork reporting burdens that require OMB clearance under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. Respondents to these collections are 
Social Security disability beneficiaries, disabled or blind 
supplemental security income beneficiaries, and ENs and State VR 
agencies working with these beneficiaries. These burdens are a result 
of the agency's consideration of public comments received from the 
September 30, 2005, Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program NPRM.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                  Average burden     Estimated
 Title/section & collection description    Annual number   Frequency of response   per response    annual burden
                                          of respondents                             (minutes)        (hours)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ticket to Work program Sec.   411.192(b)           1,000  One time..............              30             500
 and (c) What choices do I have if I am
 temporarily unable to make timely
 progress toward self-supporting
 employment?
Ticket to Work program Sec.   411.200(b)          27,000  One time..............              15           6,750
 How will the PM conduct my progress
 reviews?
Ticket to Work program Sec.   411.210(b)           3,145  One time..............              30           1,573
 What happens if I do not make timely
 progress toward self-supporting
 employment?
                                         -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total                                         31,145  ......................  ..............           8,823
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    An Information Collection Request has been submitted to OMB for 
clearance. We are soliciting comments on the burden estimate; the need 
for the information; its practical utility; ways to enhance its 
quality, utility and clarity; and on ways to minimize the burden on 
respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or 
other forms of information technology. Comments should be sent to OMB 
by fax or by e-mail to: Office of Management and Budget, Attn: Desk 
Officer for SSA, Fax Number: 202-395-6974, E-mail address: OIRA--
Submission@omb.eop.gov.
    Comments on the paperwork burdens associated with this rule will be 
accepted for up to 60 days after publication of this notice and will be 
most useful if received within 30 days of publication. Our suggestion 
of early comments does not affect the deadline for the public to submit 
comments to SSA on the proposed regulations.
    These information collection requirements will not become effective 
until approved by OMB. When OMB has approved these information 
collection requirements, SSA will publish a notice in the Federal 
Register. To receive a copy of the OMB clearance package, you may call 
the SSA Reports Clearance Officer on 410-965-0454.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 96.001, Social 
Security--Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security--Retirement 
Insurance; 96.004, Social Security--Survivors Insurance; and 96.006, 
Supplemental Security Income)

List of Subjects in 20 CFR Part 411

    Administrative practice and procedure, Blind, Disability benefits, 
Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability insurance, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Social Security, Supplemental security 
income, Public assistance programs, Vocational rehabilitation.

    Dated: August 3, 2007.
Michael J. Astrue,
Commissioner of Social Security.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, we are proposing to amend 
subparts C and E of part 411 of chapter III of title 20 of the Code of 
Federal Regulations as set forth below:

PART 411--THE TICKET TO WORK AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY PROGRAM

    1. Revise the authority citation for part 411 to read as follows:

    Authority: Secs. 702(a)(5) and 1148 of the Social Security Act 
(42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5) and 1320b-19); sec. 101(b)-(e), Pub. L. 106-
170, 113 Stat. 1860, 1873 (42 U.S.C. 1320b-19 note).

Subpart C--[Amended]

    2. Revise Sec.  411.166 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.166  Glossary of terms used in this subpart.

    (a) Using a ticket means you have assigned a ticket to an 
Employment Network (EN) or a State VR agency that has elected to serve 
you as an EN, and you are making timely progress toward self-supporting 
employment as defined in Sec.  411.180; or you have a ticket that would 
otherwise be available for assignment and are receiving VR services 
pursuant to an individualized plan for employment (IPE) and the State 
VR agency has chosen to be paid for these services under the cost 
reimbursement payment system, and you are making timely progress toward 
self-supporting employment as defined in Sec.  411.180. (See Sec.  
411.171 for when the period of using a ticket ends.)
    (b) Timely progress toward self-supporting employment means you 
have completed the specified goals of work and earnings, completed 
post-secondary education credits at an educational institution (see 
Sec.  411.167) in pursuit of a degree or certificate, or completed 
course requirements for a vocational or technical training program at 
an educational institution consisting of a technical, trade or 
vocational school (see Sec.  411.167), in the applicable progress 
certification period as described in Sec.  411.180.
    (c) Timely progress guidelines mean the guidelines we use to 
determine if you are making timely progress toward self-supporting 
employment (see Sec.  411.180).
    (d) Progress certification period means any 12-month progress 
certification period described in Sec.  411.180(b).
    (e) Progress review means the reviews the PM conducts to determine 
if you are meeting the timely progress guidelines described in Sec.  
411.180. We explain the method for conducting progress reviews in Sec.  
411.200.
    (f) Extension period is a period of up to 90 days during which you 
may reassign a ticket without being subject to

[[Page 45197]]

continuing disability reviews. You may be eligible for an extension 
period if the ticket is in use and no longer assigned to an EN or State 
VR agency acting as an EN (see Sec.  411.220).
    (g) Inactive status is a status in which you may place your ticket 
if you are temporarily unable to make timely progress toward self-
supporting employment during a progress certification period. See Sec.  
411.192 for the rules on placing your ticket in inactive status and on 
reactivating your ticket.
    3. Add Sec.  411.167 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.167  What is an educational institution or a technical, trade 
or vocational school?

    (a) Educational institution means a school (including a technical, 
trade, or vocational school), junior college, college or university 
that is: operated or directly supported by the United States; operated 
or directly supported by any State or local government or by a 
political subdivision of any State or local government; or approved by 
a State agency or subdivision of the State, or accredited by a State-
recognized or nationally recognized accrediting body.
    (b) Technical, trade or vocational school is an educational 
institution that is approved by a State agency or subdivision of the 
State or accredited by a State-recognized or nationally recognized 
accrediting body to provide technical, trade or vocational training.
    (c) State-recognized accrediting body means an entity designated or 
recognized by a State as the proper authority for accrediting schools, 
colleges or universities.
    (d) Nationally recognized accrediting body means an entity 
determined to be such by the U.S. Department of Education.
    (e) Approval by a State agency or subdivision of the State includes 
approval of a school, college or university as an educational 
institution, or approval of one or more of the courses offered by a 
school, college or university.
    4. Revise paragraph (b) of Sec.  411.171 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.171  When does the period of using a ticket end?

* * * * *
    (b) The day before the effective date of a decision under Sec.  
411.200 or Sec.  411.205 that you are no longer making timely progress 
toward self-supporting employment;
* * * * *
    5. Revise Sec.  411.180 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.180  What is timely progress toward self-supporting 
employment?

    (a) General. We consider you to be making timely progress toward 
self-supporting employment when you show progress toward the ability to 
work at levels which will reduce your dependence on Social Security 
disability benefits or SSI benefits. We will also consider you to be 
making timely progress if you show progress toward obtaining an 
educational degree or certificate, or vocational or technical training 
that will enhance your ability to return to work.
    (b) 12-month progress certification periods. The first 12-month 
progress certification period begins with the month following the month 
in which you first assigned your ticket, or the month after you have a 
ticket that would otherwise be available for assignment and are 
receiving VR services under an IPE from a State VR agency which has 
chosen to be paid under the cost reimbursement payment system. Any 
subsequent 12-month progress certification period will begin with the 
month following the end of the previous 12-month progress certification 
period. In computing any 12-month progress certification period, we do 
not count any month during which--
    (1)(i) Your ticket is not assigned; and
    (ii) You have a ticket available for assignment and are not 
receiving services under an IPE from a State VR agency which chose the 
cost reimbursement payment system; or
    (2) Your ticket is in inactive status (see Sec.  411.192).
    (c) We will determine if you are making timely progress toward 
self-supporting employment by using the following guidelines:
    (1) During the first 12-month progress certification period, you 
must be making timely progress as follows:
    (i) You must have worked in at least three months within this 12-
month period and have earnings in each of those three months that are 
equal to or greater than the amount representing a trial work service 
month (see Sec.  404.1592(b) of this chapter); or
    (ii) You must have been enrolled in a four-year degree or 
certification program at an educational institution and have completed 
at least 24 post-secondary credit hours, or the equivalent of one 
academic year of full-time study, in the program by the end of this 12-
month period; or
    (iii) You must have been enrolled in a vocational or technical 
training program at an educational institution consisting of a 
technical, trade or vocational school and have completed at least 50 
percent of the course requirements of the program by the end of this 
12-month period.
    (2) During the second 12-month progress certification period, at 
the conclusion of 24 months of ticket use, you must be making timely 
progress as follows:
    (i) You must have worked in at least six months within this 12-
month period and have earnings in each of those six months that are 
equal to or greater than the amount representing a trial work service 
month (see Sec.  404.1592(b) of this chapter); or
    (ii) You must have been enrolled in a four-year degree or 
certification program at an educational institution and completed a 
cumulative total of 50 post-secondary credit hours, or the equivalent 
of two academic years of full-time study, in the program by the end of 
this 12-month period; or
    (iii) You must have been enrolled in a vocational or technical 
training program at an educational institution consisting of a 
technical, trade or vocational school and have completed the course 
requirements of the program by the end of this 12-month period.
    (3) During the third 12-month progress certification period, at the 
conclusion of 36 months of ticket use, you must be making timely 
progress as follows:
    (i) You must have worked in at least nine months within this 12-
month period and have gross earnings from employment (or net earnings 
from self-employment as defined in Sec.  404.1080 of this chapter) in 
each of those nine months that are more than the SGA threshold amount 
specified in Sec.  404.1574(b)(2) of this chapter; or
    (ii) You must have been enrolled in a four-year degree or 
certification program at an educational institution and completed a 
cumulative total of 70 post-secondary credit hours, or the equivalent 
of three academic years of full-time study, in the program by the end 
of this 12-month period.
    (4) During the fourth 12-month progress certification period, at 
the conclusion of 48 months of ticket use, you must be making timely 
progress as follows:
    (i) You must have worked in at least nine months within this 12-
month period and have gross earnings from employment (or net earnings 
from self-employment as defined in Sec.  404.1080 of this chapter) in 
each of those nine months that are more than the SGA threshold amount 
specified in Sec.  404.1574(b)(2) of this chapter; or
    (ii) You must have been enrolled in a four-year degree or 
certification program at an educational institution and completed a 
cumulative total of 100

[[Page 45198]]

post-secondary credit hours, or the equivalent of four academic years 
of full-time study, in the program by the end of this 12-month period.
    (5) During the fifth 12-month progress certification period, at the 
conclusion of 60 months of ticket use, you must be making timely 
progress as follows:
    (i) You must have worked in at least six months within this 12-
month period and have earnings in each of those six months that 
preclude payment of Social Security disability benefits and Federal SSI 
cash benefits; or
    (ii) You must have completed the course work and earned a degree or 
certificate from a four-year degree or certification program at an 
educational institution by the end of this 12-month period.
    (6) During all subsequent 12-month progress certification periods, 
you must have worked in at least six months within the 12-month period 
and have earnings in each of those six months that preclude payment of 
Social Security disability benefits and Federal SSI cash benefits.


Sec.  411.185  [Removed]

    6. Remove Sec.  411.185.


Sec.  411.190  [Removed]

    7. Remove Sec.  411.190.
    8. Add Sec.  411.192 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.192  What choices do I have if I am temporarily unable to 
make timely progress toward self-supporting employment?

    (a) If you report to the PM that you are temporarily unable to make 
timely progress toward self-supporting employment during a progress 
certification period, the PM will give you the choice of placing your 
ticket in inactive status or, if applicable, taking your ticket out of 
assignment.
    (b) You may place your ticket in inactive status at any time by 
submitting a written request to the PM asking that your ticket be 
placed in inactive status. Your ticket will be placed in inactive 
status beginning with the first day of the month following the month in 
which you make your request. You are not considered to be using a 
ticket during months in which your ticket is in inactive status, thus 
you will be subject to continuing disability reviews during those 
months. The months in which your ticket is in inactive status do not 
count toward the time limitations for making timely progress toward 
self-supporting employment.
    (c) You may reactivate your ticket and return to in-use status if 
your ticket is still assigned to an EN or State VR agency acting as an 
EN. You may also reactivate your ticket and return to in-use status if 
you have a ticket which would otherwise be available for assignment, 
you were receiving services under an IPE from a State VR agency which 
chose the cost reimbursement payment system and your VR case has not 
been closed by the State VR agency. You may reactivate your ticket by 
submitting a written request to the PM. Your ticket will be reactivated 
beginning with the first day of the month following the month in which 
the PM receives your request. The progress certification period will 
resume counting from the last month of in-use status, and the next 
progress review will be due when the progress certification period has 
been completed. Earnings from work, or completion of post-secondary 
education credits in a four-year degree or certification program or 
course requirements in a vocational or technical training program, as 
described in Sec.  411.180, during the period your ticket is in 
inactive status may be counted toward meeting the requirements for the 
next progress review.
    (d) You may take your ticket out of assignment under Sec.  
411.145(a) at any time.


Sec.  411.195  [Removed]

    9. Remove Sec.  411.195.
    10. Revise Sec.  411.200 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.200  How will the PM conduct my progress reviews?

    The PM will conduct a progress review at the end of each 12-month 
progress certification period.
    (a) The PM will first review the available administrative records 
to determine if you completed the work requirements as specified in 
Sec.  411.180 in the applicable progress certification period.
    (b) If the administrative records do not indicate that you met the 
work requirements, the PM will contact either you or your EN or State 
VR agency to request additional information to determine if you 
completed the work requirements or have met the educational or training 
requirements as specified in Sec.  411.180 in the applicable progress 
certification period.
    (c) If the PM finds that you completed the work requirements or met 
the educational or training requirements as specified in Sec.  411.180 
in the applicable progress certification period, the PM will find that 
you are making timely progress toward self-supporting employment. On 
the basis of that finding, we will consider you to be making timely 
progress toward self-supporting employment until your next scheduled 
progress review.
    (d) If the PM finds that you did not complete the work requirements 
or meet the educational or training requirements as specified in Sec.  
411.180 in the applicable progress certification period, the PM will 
find that you are not making timely progress toward self-supporting 
employment. If the PM makes such a finding, the PM will send a written 
notice of the decision to you at your last known address. This notice 
will explain the reasons for the decision and inform you of the right 
to ask us to review the decision. This decision will be effective 30 
days after the date on which the PM sends the notice of the decision to 
you, unless you request that we review the decision under Sec.  
411.205.
    11. In Sec.  411.210, revise paragraph (b), the heading of 
paragraph (c), and the fourth sentences of both paragraphs (c)(1) and 
(c)(2) to read as follows:


Sec.  411.210  What happens if I do not make timely progress toward 
self-supporting employment?

* * * * *
    (b) Re-entering in-use status. If you failed to meet the timely 
progress guidelines for a 12-month progress certification period and 
you believe that you have now met the applicable requirements for that 
progress certification period as described in Sec.  411.180, you may 
request that you be reinstated to in-use status. In order to do so, you 
must submit a written request to the PM asking that you be reinstated 
to in-use status and you must provide evidence showing that you have 
met the applicable requirements for the progress certification period. 
The PM will decide whether you have satisfied the applicable 
requirements for the progress certification period and may be 
reinstated to in-use status. If the PM determines you have met the 
applicable requirements for the progress certification period, you will 
be reinstated to in-use status, provided that your ticket is assigned 
to an EN or State VR agency acting as an EN, or you have a ticket which 
would otherwise be available for assignment and you are receiving 
services under an IPE from a State VR agency which has chosen the cost 
reimbursement payment system. See paragraph (c) of this section for 
when your reinstatement to in-use status will be effective. After you 
are reinstated to in-use status, your next 12-month progress 
certification period will begin.
    (c) Decisions on re-entering in-use status. (1) * * * If the PM 
decides that you have satisfied the requirements for re-entering in-use 
status (including the

[[Page 45199]]

requirement that your ticket be assigned to an EN or State VR agency 
acting as an EN, or that you have a ticket which would otherwise be 
available for assignment and are receiving services under an IPE from a 
State VR agency that has chosen the cost reimbursement payment system), 
you will be reinstated to in-use status effective with the date on 
which the PM sends the notice of the decision to you. * * *
    (2) * * * If we decide that you have satisfied the requirements for 
re-entering in-use status (including the requirement that your ticket 
be assigned to an EN or State VR agency acting as an EN, or that you 
have a ticket which would otherwise be available for assignment and are 
receiving services under an IPE from a State VR agency that has chosen 
the cost reimbursement payment system), you will be reinstated to in-
use status effective with the date on which we send the notice of the 
decision to you.
    12. In Sec.  411.220, revise the first sentence of paragraph (a), 
revise paragraph (d)(2), remove paragraph (e), and redesignate 
paragraph (f) as paragraph (e) to read as follows:


Sec.  411.220  What if my ticket is no longer assigned to an EN or 
State VR agency?

    (a) If your ticket was once assigned to an EN or State VR agency 
acting as an EN and is no longer assigned, you are eligible for an 
extension period of up to 90 days to reassign your ticket. * * *
* * * * *
    (d) * * *
* * * * *
    (2) Ends 90 days after it begins or when you assign your ticket to 
a new EN or State VR agency, whichever is sooner.
* * * * *
    13. In Sec.  411.225, revise paragraphs (b) and (c), and remove 
paragraph (d) to read as follows:


Sec.  411.225  What if I reassign my ticket after the end of the 
extension period?

* * * * *
    (b) Time limitations for the timely progress guidelines. Any month 
during which your ticket is not assigned and you have a ticket 
available for assignment and are not receiving services under an IPE 
from a State VR agency which chose the cost reimbursement payment 
system, either during or after the extension period, will not count 
toward the time limitations for the timely progress guidelines.
    (c) If you reassign your ticket after the end of the extension 
period. If you reassign your ticket after the end of the extension 
period, the period comprising the remaining months in the applicable 
12-month progress certification period will begin with the first month 
beginning after the day on which the reassignment of your ticket is 
effective under Sec.  411.150(c).
    14. Add Sec.  411.226 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.226  How will SSA determine if I am meeting the timely 
progress guidelines if I assign my ticket prior to [EFFECTIVE DATE OF 
FINAL REGULATIONS]?

    (a) If you assigned your ticket to an EN or State VR agency prior 
to [EFFECTIVE DATE OF FINAL REGULATIONS], we will use the guidelines in 
Sec.  411.180(c) to determine whether you are making timely progress 
toward self-supporting employment on or after that date. We will 
consider you to be in the first or a subsequent 12-month progress 
certification period under Sec.  411.180 as of that date. We will 
determine your applicable 12-month progress certification period and 
the number of months remaining in that period as of that date by 
counting all months during which your ticket was assigned and in use 
during the period--
    (1) Beginning with the month following the month in which you first 
assigned your ticket under the rules in effect prior to that date; and
    (2) Ending with the close of the month immediately before that 
date.
    (b) Subsequent 12-month progress certification periods will follow 
the rules in Sec.  411.180.
    (c) If, on [DATE ONE DAY BEFORE EFFECTIVE DATE OF FINAL 
REGULATIONS], your ticket is in use and assigned to a State VR agency 
which chose to be paid for services it provides to you under the cost 
reimbursement payment system, your period of using a ticket may 
continue under the rules in this subpart, including the rules in 
paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section. However, your ticket will no 
longer be considered assigned to that State VR agency effective 
[EFFECTIVE DATE OF FINAL REGULATIONS]. You may assign your ticket after 
the State VR agency has closed your case.

Subpart E--[Amended]

    15. Add paragraph (d) to Sec.  411.310 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.310  How does an entity other than a State VR agency apply to 
be an EN and who will determine whether an entity qualifies as an EN?

* * * * *
    (d) One-stop delivery systems established under subtitle B of title 
I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 2811 et seq.) may 
participate in the Ticket to Work program as ENs and do not need to 
respond to the RFP. However, in order to participate in the Ticket to 
Work program, the one-stop delivery system must enter into an agreement 
with the Commissioner to be an EN and must maintain compliance with 
general and specific selection criteria as described in Sec.  411.315 
in order to remain an EN.
    16. Add paragraph (e) to Sec.  411.315 to read as follows:


Sec.  411.315  What are the minimum qualifications necessary to be an 
EN?

* * * * *
    (e) One-stop delivery systems established under subtitle B of title 
I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 2811 et seq.) are 
qualified to be ENs. A one-stop delivery system must enter into an 
agreement with the Commissioner to be an EN and must maintain 
compliance with general and specific selection criteria of this section 
and Sec.  411.305 in order to remain an EN.

 [FR Doc. E7-15715 Filed 8-10-07; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4191-02-P