If you have limited income and resources and are over 65, blind, or have a disability, you may rely on your monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. But what happens to your SSI payments if you try to go back to work?
Getting a job is hard enough without the added pressure of worrying about running afoul of benefit regulations–especially since federal benefit rules vary depending on which state or territory you live in. If you want to work and are receiving SSI benefits, call us at (888) 689-6760 to learn how your monthly payments will be affected.
Benefits of the Ticket to Work Program for SSI Beneficiaries
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has different benefit programs to help people who need it most, each with its own specific rules and requirements. The Ticket to Work (TTW) program allows beneficiaries receiving disability benefits and income assistance to ease back into the workforce. If you follow SSA requirements, you can potentially continue to receive benefits for a period of time until you transition fully back to work.
Participation in TTW provides help for SSI beneficiaries in many ways, including:
With a Ticket to Work, earning wages doesn’t automatically stop your SSI payments. However, your payments are decreased or suspended depending on the amount of your income. In general, SSA will subtract $1 from your monthly SSI check for every $2 you earn at your job. For example, if your SSI payment is $900 and you earn $1.200 per month at your job, then SSA will subtract $600 from your SSI and reduce your payment to $300. If SSI and your job are your only sources of income, SSA won’t count the first $85 of your monthly gross earnings. Your payments will stop during months where income exceeds SSI limits but will start again in any month your income drops below the SSI limits.
Recovering Out-of-Pocket Expenses
In order to give you as much assistance for your condition as possible, SSA will deduct the amount of any work expenses you paid that are related to your disability. These may include transportation devices, mobility or hearing aids, assistive devices at your workplace, or other costs.
Under the Student Earned-Income Exclusion (SEIE), SSA doesn’t count a portion of your earnings if you’re under 22, attend school, or participate in an ongoing training program. In 2023, up to $2,220 of a student’s monthly earnings aren’t considered when calculating SSI payments.
Protecting Health Coverage
If you have health benefits through Medicaid, your coverage will continue until your income reaches a certain level. The exact number varies with each state and territory, so we will help with these calculations. If your health care costs are greater than this level, you could keep your Medicaid as well as your increased income.
Preventing Medical Reviews
People who have been assigned a Ticket to Work are not subject to Continuing Medical Reviews if they follow the conditions of the program.
Providing a Safety Net
If your payments are discontinued because of your earnings and you become unable to work again, you may apply for expedited reinstatement of your SSI benefits.
Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)
The SSA has also created a beneficiary-led framework to help people get the skills and services they need to reduce their dependence on benefit programs. We can help you to create a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), allowing you to put some of your earnings aside for a specific work goal—such as going back to school or starting your own business. Any money or resources used to further your work plans won’t count toward your income and resource limits.
You must have a plan in writing and approved by SSA in order for the funds to be exempt from benefit calculations. A successful plan will include:
A Clear Work Goal
This should provide details on the ultimate goal you intend to reach, what you’ll be able to do when it’s complete, the steps that will get you closer to achieving it, how long each step will take. For example, if you want to start your own business, you need to include a business plan with your application that outlines all of your upfront costs, projected profits, and investments that will grow your business.
A List of Items or Services Needed to Reach the Goal
Your plan should include specifics on what you will need and why it's vital to your success. For example, if you want to be a hairstylist, you may need to rent office space or buy time in an existing salon.
Accurate Cost Estimates
The SSA is unlikely to approve any costs that aren’t researched and reasonable. Common costs include tuition, fees, school supplies, child care, employment services, assistive technology, online memberships or booking software, new clothing, or safety equipment.
A Monthly Budget
Costs should be itemized and broken into chronological monthly expenses in the approximate order they will be used. If you have to set aside income to pay for these items and services, your SSI payment might increase to help you meet regular living expenses. You will also need to show SSA how you plan to keep these funds separate from other money, such as by opening a dedicated bank account.
Once you submit your PASS application, a Social Security representative may ask you to revise it, require certain changes, or deny the plan outright. If denied, you can appeal the decision. If approved, you will be required to keep receipts, take notes, and make regular reports to your SSA representative. If you can’t complete your plan for any reason, SSA will no longer exempt the income or resources you set aside from your monthly SSI benefit calculations.
Return to Work Without Losing Your SSI Benefits
It’s possible to return to work and keep the monthly payments you need to survive. When you partner with Disability Services of America, we stay by your side to help you meet the requirements of the Ticket to Work program and achieve your ultimate employment goals. If you need help returning to work after an injury without losing your SSI benefits, please fill out our online contact form or call (888) 689-6760 to learn more.