Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Incentives

The SSDI program offers many incentives to help blind and disabled people go to work. Here are some of the ways they may help you:

Pay for the items and services you need to work.

Maybe you can’t work without certain items or services, and you pay for them yourself. SSA refers to the costs of these items and services as Impairment-Related Work Expenses, or IRWEs.

When SSA decides whether you’re eligible for cash benefits and sets the amount of your payments, it can exclude the money you pay for those items and services from your countable earnings.

What kinds of items and services qualify? Things like attendant care, job coaching, special transportation or vehicle modifications, durable medical equipment such as a wheelchair, and home modifications such as ramps and railings.

Get extra help to succeed at work.

Some people are especially generous in helping disabled workers to succeed. For example, your employer might give you extra help or supervision on the job, you might be allowed to handle a lighter workload than other workers but get the same pay, or you may have a job coach or mentor who helps you do some of your work.

This extra on-the-job support is called a Subsidy. Its value is not included as part of your countable earnings when SSA determines whether you’re making SGA.

Avoid work-triggered eligibility reviews.

If you start working after receiving benefits for at least two years, working won’t trigger an unscheduled review of your eligibility for benefits. However, a medical review may still be scheduled for other reasons.

Take your time while you try working and not lose your benefits.

A Trial Work Period, or TWP lets you try working for nine months and get your full SSDI benefit check no matter how high your earnings are. You don’t have to complete the nine months all at once, and you can even have big gaps between your months of trial work. So the total time of your Trial Work Period could actually be many years.

Go back to benefits without reapplying for them.

After the Trial Work Period ends, an Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) gives you three years of SSDI eligibility. During the EPE, you’ll receive your full SSDI check every month, unless you report earnings higher than SGA. (Note: It’s important to report to SSA any change in your earnings, especially if you start to earn more. Otherwise you might have to repay money to SSA.)

Have your eligibility reviewed quickly after the three-year EPE.

SSDI can help you after the three-year Extended Period of Eligibility ends. For another five years, if your disability ever gets worse, you can ask for your benefits to start again. Your application will be reviewed quickly through Expedited Reinstatement.

You can even get up to six months of payments while SSA determines whether you are eligible. And if the SSA says you are not eligible, you can still keep the payments that were sent to you.

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Diane Dalmasse, Division Director
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