Work Incentives


Although the Social Security Administration declines those applicants who are not totally and completely disabled, they do reward those who are currently receiving SSI and SSDI payments who want to go back to work. These rewards are called “work incentives.”


Under specific circumstances, disabled individuals who try to go back to work can receive:

  • Monthly cash payments (for a limited time)
  • Medicare or Medicaid
  • Assistance with education, job training, and rehabilitation in order to start work

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The rules for SSDI and SSI recipients interested in work incentives are different. To receive SSDI, beneficiaries have to go through a nine month “trial work period” where they test their ability to go back to work. During this time, you will continue to receive your monthly SSDI benefits regardless of how much you are earning at your new job. After this period, you have 36 months to continue to work while still receiving occasional Social Security payments. You will only receive these payments during those months when you are not receiving “substantial” income from your employer. For 2014, anything over $1,070 a month is considered “substantial.” For five years after you begin the work incentives program, you do not have to reapply for SSDI if it is determined that you cannot fully go back to work. If you cannot work during this time, SSDI benefits will be immediately reinstated.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI payments are determined by your already-existing income. The more money that you earn, the less money the SSA will pay you. Taking advantage of the work incentives program means that you can continue to receive monthly SSI benefits until your earnings exceed the SSI income limits. These limits very from state to state based on the supplemental payments that the state makes in addition to the federal payments. Utah, for example, pays only a small state supplement of $3.13 for individuals and $9.73 for couples. The purpose of work incentives for those receiving SSI is to help them reduce their dependence on Social Security and increase self-reliance.

Reporting income

You are required to report the following to the SSA every once in a while either by phone, mail, or in person to your local Social Security office:

  • Either starting or stopping work
  • Your work responsibilities, work schedule, and any changes in pay
  • Work expenses (extra expenses that others without disabilities are not required to pay)

If you lose your job

If you lose your job, during your trial work period or the following 36-month period, you have no need to worry. Losing your job during the trial work period will not affect your monthly benefits. If you lose it in the following 36-month period, all you need to do is report the incident and your benefits will be promptly reinstated as long as you are still disabled.

Setting goals

Social Security Administration representatives can sit down with you and talk about how you can achieve “self-support.” This will include a work plan for you that can help you combine your money and resources and work opportunities to help you move forward.

Source: SSA

Photo courtesy of: Stefano Intinoli