Work Incentives are a safety net that allows you to go back to work to try it out without fear of losing your benefits.
Once you have either SSI or SSDI and you decide you would like to go back to work, navigating the system can be tricky. The process for returning to work on SSDI vs. SSI is very different. The Social Security “Red Book” has all of the in depth information outlined below. Social Security Redbook
Returning to Work
On SSDI, you are allowed a “trial work period” which is nine months (does not have to be consecutive). A month is counted as a “trial work month” if you are earning at least $750/month gross. You will still receive your full SSDI benefit and your Medicare coverage will continue. Make sure during this time that you are carefully tracking all earnings and keeping all pay stubs.
Once you complete the 9 month trial work period and you continue working with substantial earnings, you will have SSDI for 3 months and then it will stop. Substantial earnings or SGA (substantial gainful activity) is if your earnings are at least $1,040/month (if you are blind, SGA is $1740/month).
If your earnings drop below a “substantial level” at any point during the next 3 years, you can call the local SS office and have them reinstate SSDI benefits with no need to fill out any additional forms. This is called the Extended Period of Eligibility. After the Extended Period of Eligibility, you will have an additional five years for SS to reinstate benefits without having to file a new application. However, during this time they will need to do a medical review. While doing the medical review, you can get Expedited Reinstatement, which is temporary (up to six months) SSDI benefits and Medicare (if you no longer have it).
Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE)
An IRWE is an extra disability-related expense you pay out of pocket so you can work. These are deducted from your gross earnings in order to determine if you are working at SGA.
Ex: paratransit, (need prior approval) and co-pays for medication
Medicare and Returning to Work: What Happens to my Medicare if my SSDI stops?
Even if SSDI benefits stop because you continue to work after the trial period, your free Medicare Part A Hospital Insurance will continue for 93 months (approximately 1.5 years). If you have Part B, that will continue as well if you pay the premium out of pocket, pay SS directly. At the end of 93 months, you may be able to purchase Medicare if you are still working and if you continue to be medically disabled.
SSI and Returning to Work
When a person receiving SSI goes to work, a basic formula is applied. There is no trial work period; SSA starts counting your earned money immediately.
Formula: First $85 you receive from work is not counted. SS looks at half of what you earn and subtracts that from SSI benefit rate.
-Example: If you earn $1,000/month.
915 $915/2= 457.5
$457.5 will be subtracted from your SSI payment. The 2012 NY state SSI rate for a single individual is $785. So, $785-457.5= $327.50. So you would receive a check for $327.50. *As long as you are still receiving any SSI money, you will remain eligible for Medicaid.
Ticket to Work Program
This program is for those who receive SSI or SSDI who want to work and need help in planning their employment. It is a free and voluntary service. Those who would like to participate receive a “Ticket” that they can use to obtain services from a state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency or another approved provider that is part of the “Employment Network” (EN). These Employment Networks are private organizations or government agencies that have agreed to work with SSA to provide employment services to beneficiaries with disabilities.
Source: Ticket To Work
Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) programs
WIPA programs help SSA beneficiaries become better equipped to make informed choices about work. Each WIPA is staffed with Community Work Incentive Coordinators (CWICs) to:
• provide work incentives planning and assistance;
• help beneficiaries and their families determine eligibility for Federal or State work incentives programs;
• refer beneficiaries with disabilities to appropriate Employment Networks or State VR agencies based on individual needs and impairment types;
• provide general information about potential employer-based or federally subsidized health benefits coverage available to beneficiaries once they enter the workforce; and
• inform beneficiaries with disabilities of further protection and advocacy services available to them.
To locate a WIPA program near you: WIPPA Providers By State
Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS Program)
PASS is a program that helps individuals with a disability pay for certain expenses related to achieving an employment goal. It is a SSI work incentive that lets you use your own income or assets to help you reach your work goals. For example, you could put money aside to go to school to get specialized training for a job or to start a business; it helps you get the items, services, or skills you need to reach your goals.
Again, for all information described above, please consult the Social Security Red Book. SSA Redbook