How Does the SSI Work Incentive Program Work?

by | Jul 20, 2016 | Lawyer

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The Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) makes cash assistance payments to aged, blind and physically challenged people who have limited income and resources. Special rules are in place making it possible for such recipients to hold a job, earn an income, and still receive their monthly SSI payments, in addition to remaining eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Social Security refers to these rules as “work incentives.”

Among the recognized work incentives is something called Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE). The cost of a wheelchair, certain transportation expenses and special work-related equipment that helps you function at your job, can be excluded from your earned income when Social Security figures your monthly SSI payment.

If you receive any subsidy or special incentive that could result in receiving more pay than the actual value of the services you perform, SSI does not count that when computing your payment amount. Examples of subsidies and special conditions include receiving more supervision than other workers doing the same job for the same pay; having fewer or simpler tasks to complete than others; or having a job coach or mentor who helps you perform some of your job-related duties.

Another work incentive is Un-incurred Business Expenses. This refers to self-employment business support that someone provides you at no cost. SSI does not deduct these expenses when figuring your monthly payment. Any Unsuccessful Work Attempt, which is an effort by a physically challenged individual to do substantial work that either has stopped or produced earnings below the Substantial Gainful Activity level after six months or less, has no effect on your payment.

According to, if you medically recover and no longer meet SSA’s definition of disability, your monthly payments can continue if you actively participate in an approved Vocational Rehabilitation Program with the goal of becoming self-supporting. Your monthly SSI payments can continue until you complete the program.

Other work incentives include an Earned Income Exclusion of the first $65 of earnings you receive in a month, plus one-half of the remaining earnings. If you are under age 22 and attend school on a regular basis, SSI does not count up to $1,780 of earned income per month when calculating your monthly payment. Any earned income that a blind individual uses to meet the expenses of working does not count toward their SSI eligibility and payment.

To learn more about these and other work incentives within the SSI program, contact Michael Liner at Liner Legal, LLC. He and his staff will help you get through the claim process and fight to get you every dollar of income to which you are entitled.

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