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May 31, 2023

46-year-old Lamont Burns had never held a full-time job. His little work included an on-call dishwasher, and it had been five years since he held that job. Lamont relied on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) he received to support himself. After being connected to our Ticket-to-Work and Self Sufficiency (Ticket) program–a federal program designed to provide SSDI beneficiaries help to enter and maintain employment­­–Lamont was finally able to secure a full-time job and reach a goal he had long strived to achieve. Below, Lamont recalls his struggle to find a job and how Ticket has reshaped his relationship with the workforce and awakened newfound confidence in himself.  

I always found it difficult to hold a job and have received SSDI benefits most of my adult life. The idea of having the traditional “American dream” was not something I thought was possible, or even aspired to have. My relationship with the workforce and my mental health issues made it difficult for me to progress in the workplace. 


Even more challenging was finding a place where leadership was willing to support me with my struggles. It always felt as if employers didn’t care about your mental health issues; they want someone who can do the work, and if you couldn’t, they would find someone else that could. I would teeter between feeling confident that I would find a way forward with a career plan and feeling stuck where I was. I could not see the bigger picture of what a job could mean apart from having money to pay for housing and food. After years of countless disappointments, my faith in my abilities diminished. So, I mostly drifted through random part-time jobs to earn some extra cash, and the only stable income I received was the benefits I received from SSDI. 

It isn’t easy to make a stable life by relying only on SSDI assistance. You are stuck to their payment schedule and amount, which often makes keeping up with bills difficult, especially as prices would increase and the benefits would not. Going out into the world and being limited to what I could afford, which was not much, made life feel uninspiring and made it virtually impossible to build any financial future for myself. 

I’m not sure who told me about Ticket, but I remember looking at the website, and it mentions becoming self-sufficient–something I have always aspired to be. I saw Ticket as an opportunity to move forward and meet that goal.

The program has had a massive impact on my life. I had worked with other organizations that offered job placement support, but Ticket is much different. What makes it such a great program is the program specialist, Georgina. She has been there for me every step of the way. I was nervous about joining at first and losing my benefits, but she taught me how SSI works and that I wouldn’t immediately lose my benefits which made me more comfortable. She works so hard for me and cared about me as a person, and worked with me to figure out what I was passionate about and what I wanted to do. I still meet with her, and each time  is a positive experience. She always boosts me up, leaving me feeling more capable than before. Her work ethic inspired me, and I wanted to work harder to show her my appreciation. She put more effort into finding me a job than I ever had. 


Georgina connected me with Job Options Inc. in La Jolla where I got a full-time janitorial job and since have received employee of the month recognition and a promotion to floor technician. It feels good to interact with people and be in a solid place where I can plan for my future and have space to work on my mental health. This job has inspired me to begin writing again, which I used to enjoy but had lost motivation for. Now that I do not have to stress about money, I feel more open to other possibilities. 

The fear of not being secure in your workplace and losing your income is something that most people receiving SSDI benefits can relate to. What tends to happen is that you forget to rely on yourself and what you are capable of, and you begin to rely on the security of the benefits and the idea of losing them can be scary. That fear is what holds people back from joining a program like this. I would tell people who are having trouble finding a job or are fearful of joining Ticket that they have to stay motivated and not let that fear take over. I know it is tough to get motivated, but once you find that motivation, it can build up and grow stronger as you go through the journey, especially when you have people like Georgina there to support you! 

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