SSI Work Incentives

The amount of SSI that you can receive is determined by what other income you receive. If you receive almost any kind of income besides SSI, the SSI will be reduced. However, not all earned income is counted.

  • Student Earned Income Exclusion: If you are a student under the age of 22, you can earn as much as $1,790 a month that will not be counted against your SSI.  Any amount above that will be counted.  The limit for this is $7,200 a year.
  • Earned Income Exclusion: The first $65 a month that you earn is not counted at all.
  • General Income Exclusion: If you have no other income besides earnings and SSI, another $20 is excluded from your countable income.
  • Impairment Related Work Expenses: If you pay for something that is related to an impairment that you have, and that you need to be able to work, that amount can be excluded from your income as well. The most common type of IRWE requested is medical expenses, but you could also use disability-related transit services, attendant care services, durable medical or adaptive equipment, service animal expenses, or anything else that fits the criteria.
  • What is left after all of these work incentives are applied is then divided by 2. This means that less than half of what you earn is counted against your SSI.
  • Blind Work Expenses: If you meet SSA's definition of blindness, nearly any expense that you incur to work can be excluded.
  • Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS): This is a narrowly target work incentive for people who need to spend some money on a work goal that could help them to work off cash benefits. Any income (or in some cases, resources) that is spent on a work goal can be excluded.

The result of all of these work incentives is that you should have more income from working than you would have on SSI alone. For example, let's say you get a job that pays $1,400 a month (before taxes).

$1,400
         -65   Earned Income Exclusion
   1,335
         -20   General Income Exclusion
   1,315
         -15   Impairment Related Work Expense
   1,300

$1,300 divided by 2 equals $650 of countable income.

$735   Full Benefit Rate for an individual SSI recipient
-650
  $85    Adjusted SSI amount 

In this case, even though you are earning $1,400 a month, you can receive $85 in SSI for a total of $1,485 of income a month. That is way more than you could get on SSI alone.

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