Bridges Blog Employment Resources Financial Resources Series: Find Financial Freedom February 2024

Work Incentives from Social Security

Find Financial Freedom with Our Bridges Resource Library

This month, we highlight after-high school opportunities from free tuition to work incentives that help blind/low vision students Find Financial Freedom!

  • February 6: Free Tuition? Yes!
  • February 13: Exploration and Support from DORS/OBVS
  • February 20: College and Lifelong Resources and Services from Maryland Library for the Blind
  • February 27: Work Incentives from Social Security

This week, we explore various Social Security Administration policies and programs that incentivize work by allowing SSI and SSDI recipients to earn more income without losing their benefits.

Bridges’ Support Always Available

Please know that your Bridges Technical Assistance Center staff are always available to help you navigate work incentives or anything else. Please reach out to us early and often!

Why Are Work Incentives from Social Security Important?

Social Security background

Individuals may be eligible for monthly cash payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA) if they meet both disability and financial eligibility guidelines. These monthly payments are made under SSA’s two disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Disability eligibility

Individuals who meet the definition of “legal blindness” automatically meet the disability requirement (those who do not might still meet the disability requirement, but it is not automatic eligibility like it is for legal blindness).

Financial eligibility

Both SSDI and SSI require limited income. (SSI also requires limited resources).

Find out more

The Bridges Resource Library provides several entries with information about SSI and SSDI:

What Are Work Incentives?

“Work incentives are special rules that enable people receiving SSDI or SSI to work and still receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid.” From SSA’s Work Incentive Policies & Resources web page.

In other words, work incentives allow people who receive SSI or SSDI to work more without losing their monthly cash payments and without losing their medical coverage.

Income Exclusions

As noted above, both SSI and SSDI impose limits on a person’s earned income for financial eligibility. While the programs treat too-high income differently, many SSI and SSDI recipients avoid promotions or working more hours due to the risk of loss of monthly payments and medical benefits from earning “excess” income.

Income exclusions provide a way for disabled workers to exclude – keep out – some of their income. Income exclusions include both the Student Earned Income Exclusion (based on age and student status) and Work Expense Exclusions (based on costs incurred by working).

Student Earned Income Exclusion – Only for SSI recipients

The Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) allows qualifying SSI students to earn income without losing SSI benefits (or losing fewer of them). Find out more in the Student Earned Income Exclusion Bridges Resource Library entry.

Blind Work Expenses (BWE) – Only for legally blind SSI recipients

In determining whether a blind SSI recipient’s earned income exceeds income limits, the SSA will exclude certain expenses, called Blind Work Expenses. While most of these expenses are related to work, not all are. BWE exclusions s are only available for the earned income of blind SSI recipients. Find out more in the Blind Work Expense (BWE) Exclusions Bridges Resource Library entry. Bridges also offers this Download: BWE Calculation Spreadsheet (two worksheets: SSI Calculation & BWE Calculation).

Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE)

For all SSDI recipients and SSI recipients who are not legally blind, the SSA excludes some work-related expenses: Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE). The list of IRWE is shorter than the BWE list is, but IRWE can still allow a disabled SSI or SSDI recipient to earn money to pay for those expenses and have the SSA exclude those funds from earned income determinations. Please check out the IRWE (Impairment Related Work Expense) Exclusions Bridges Resource Library entry for more details. Also, consider accessing this Bridges Download: IRWE Calculation Spreadsheet (two worksheets: SSDI Calculation & IRWE Calculation).

SSA Work Incentive Programs

SSI only: Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

A Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) is a document that allows you to exceed SSI income and resource limitations if the SSA approves it. Find out more in the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) Bridges Resource Library entry.

Both SSI and SSDI: Expedited Reinstatement (EXR)

If your benefits stopped because of your earnings level, and you are no longer able to work because of your medical condition, or one related to it, you can request to have your benefits reinstated without having to complete a new application. While Social Security determines your benefits reinstatement, you are eligible to receive temporary benefits for up to 6 months.

Both SSI and SSDI: Protection from Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR)

In order to ensure that an SSI or SSDI recipient is still The SSA When a person receiving disability payments earns The SSA Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR)

If you assign your Ticket to an approved service provider before you receive notice of a medical Continuing Disability Review (CDR), you will not have to undergo the medical review while you are participating in the Ticket to Work Program and making progress within Social Security’s timeframes.

Please check out the Bridges Technical Assistance Center Resource Library today!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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