Work Incentives for 2015- What you need to know!  

Did you know that it is possible to return to work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits? There are federal work incentives available to both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients that allow you to work without losing your insurance, or your cash benefit! Let’s look at some of the most common work incentives for each group.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The Trial Work Period (TWP) gives you an opportunity to test your work skills while keeping your full benefit check, no matter how much you earn. You are given 9 months in a rolling 60-month period to attempt working, and to make sure that you are able to handle the job without having any negative effects on your Social Security payments. A TWP month is considered used when you earn over the limit established by Social Security for that month. For these purposes, Social Security is concerned with the amount you earn between the first and last day of the month, not the amount your pay checks are for.

For example, in 2015 the limit is $780. If you begin working and earn $10.00 an hour, working 20 hours per week, you would make $860 per month. Each month you worked, you would use a TWP. You would continue to receive your SSDI checks, and have no negative impacts on your benefit.

After you have used your 9 TWP months, you enter the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). The EPE lasts 36 consecutive months, and it doesn’t matter if you are working or not.  During this 36-month period, Social Security is trying to determine if you are able to work at a certain level, what they call Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In 2015, this level is $1,090 gross countable earnings per month, or $1,820 if you are statutorily blind. What this means for you is that if your countable earnings are over SGA, you will not receive a Social Security payment. However, if the next month, your countable earnings are below SGA, you would receive a payment.

The Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE) comes into play after the completion of the Trial Work Period. When figuring SGA, the cost of certain items and services required to go back to work are subtracted from earnings to determine ‘countable’ income. These expenses must be out-of-pocket, meaning you pay them yourself. Some examples of an IRWE would be medication co-pays, doctor’s visits, adaptive equipment, specialized transportation.  

Another Work Incentive available after the completion of the Trial Work Period is the Subsidy. Much like an IRWE, a Subsidy is deducted from your gross earnings to establish your ‘countable’ earnings for Social Security purposes. Examples of Subsidies include job coaching, additional breaks at work, help from a coworker or supervisor.

Medicare will continue for at least 93 month (7years and 9 months) after the Trial Work Period ends. This is known as Extended Medicare. Depending on when you reach SGA and use your grace period, it could continue longer.  

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is different than SSDI. Social Security doesn’t count the first $20 of income, and this is known as a General Exclusion. They also don’t count the first $65 of earnings, known as the Earned Income Exclusion. After that, they only count half of your earnings! For example, if you earned $885 in a month, Social Security would only count $400 of those earnings. Instead of receiving $733 in SSI, you would receive $333. But the $885 that you earned, plus the $333 in SSI gives you a total monthly income of $1,218, which is A LOT more than the Federal Benefit Rate of $733. The other benefit to working is that you are earning credits to become insured under SSDI!

You can also use Impairment Related Work Expenses for SSI, which allows you to keep more of your SSI check to put towards out-of-pocket costs related to your disability!

1619B is a federal work incentive that allows you to work and keep your Medicaid coverage! To be eligible, your SSI must have been reduced to $0 because of earned income, you must need Medicaid in order to work, your gross annual income has to be below $37,010 in 2014 (ad this will increase for 2015!), and you cannot accumulate more than $2,000 in resources to remain eligible for this protection.

These are just some of the work incentives available to SSDI and SSI recipients who want to return to work! Indiana Works is the Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) project for Northern and Central Indiana, and they can help you understand what work incentives are available for you! You can contact Indiana Works at 855-641-8382 or via email  You can also follow them on Twitter at Aspire_CWICs and like them on Facebook at Aspire Indiana Works.

About the author: Kendra Berry is the Supervising Community Work Incentives Coordinator for Aspire Indiana Works.

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