Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Incentives

If you’re on SSI, there are several work incentives you may qualify for. These include:

Allowances for earned income.

When figuring your monthly benefits payment, SSI ignores the first $65 of your earned income, plus one-half of the remainder. This is called the Earned Income Exclusion. This means that you can make more money from a combination of work income and SSI payments than you can from SSI payments alone.

Items and services you need for work.

This incentive, called Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWEs), is similar for both SSDI and SSI.
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?

  • Attendant care
  • Job coaching
  • Special transportation or vehicle modifications
  • Durable medical equipment such as a wheelchair
  • Home modifications such as ramps and railings


The Student Earned Income Exclusion may apply to you if you regularly attend school and are under age 22. With this incentive, a certain amount of your earned income is excluded when SSA calculates your monthly payments. The amount increases every year to keep pace with the increasing cost of education.

Saving to achieve career goals.

The Plan for Achieving Self-Support, or PASS, lets you save some income in a special account and use the money to achieve goals such as attending school or getting vocational training. This money is excluded when SSI calculates your monthly payments. But keep in mind that you need to submit an application, have it approved by SSA, and spend the money only as approved.

Note: This incentive works best for people who have another source of money to pay for any expenses beyond their basic living costs. One example of having more than one income is getting both SSI and SSDI payments.


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Diane Dalmasse, Division Director
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Waterbury, VT 05671-2040
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