Many Work Incentives Exist

Photo of young man wearing a blue polo working in a shoe store standing in front of a large shoe rack.

Work incentives include employment programs that are funded by SSA, which include Employment Networks (ENs) and Vocational Rehabilitation DORS, and benefits management services that help people understand that people can keep some or all of their cash benefits, as well as health insurance while working. In this post, we mention a few of the many work incentives available.

If you receive SSDI the first incentive available to you is the Trial Work Period (TWP):

During the TWP, you can earn any amount and receive SSDI, as long as you still have a disability. Your TWP ends when you use 9 TWP months within a 5-year period.  You use a TWP month each time your monthly gross earnings are more than $940 (2021 rate).

Another work incentive is Impairment-Related Work Incentive, or IRWE. These deductions are any out-of-pocket expenses that are necessary for work.  They must be paid for by you and not by another source. The deduction must be reasonable, and deducted in the month of purchase, though SSA may be able to stretch more expensive items over several months. Examples of IRWEs are: Medications, medical co-pays, medical devices or equipment, attendant care, special transportation such as Para-Transit or modified vehicle.

These expenses must be directly related to enabling you to work and the expense has to be related medically determinable as an impairment that is being treated by a health care provider rather than something that anybody would incur by working. Impairment Related Work Expenses are available to both SSDI and SSI recipients

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

SSI is a cash benefit for people with disabilities who have low income and resources.  The amount you receive is reduced if you have other income.  Many people think they’ll have less money if they work, but that’s a myth.

Social Security doesn’t count all of your income when calculating your SSI amount.  They deduct $20 from your unearned income; if you don’t have unearned income, they deduct it from your gross earnings.  Then they deduct $65 of your gross earnings and divide the remainder of those earnings in half.  The amount of income left after these deductions is called total countable income.  Social Security subtracts your total countable income from your base SSI rate; the remainder is your new SSI amount.  Because of these deductions, you have more money when working.

MD-WIN believes in the power of work! If you are a person (aged 14-not yet full retirement ages) with a disability receiving SSI or SSDI and need support in understanding work incentives and how work affects benefits, give us a call: 240-638-0071, or learn more at

This post is funded through a Social Security cooperative agreement. Although Social Security reviewed this post for accuracy, it doesn’t constitute an official Social Security communication. We developed this post at U.S. taxpayer expense.

Many Work Incentives Exist
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