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For those who rely on Social Security disability benefits, it’s sometimes difficult to make ends meet on a fixed income. Therefore, the SSA has developed a variety of programs designed to help those on disability explore employment options and establish careers while still receiving the disability payments they need for support.

Because there are so many incentives available, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate the sea of beneficial programs and determine which ones apply to your situation. For example, you may be eligible for the SSA Ticket to Work program, which is designed to allow the opportunity to test your ability to perform job functions and find work without jeopardizing existing benefits. While the Ticket to Work program may not meet the needs of every recipient of disability benefits, it can be a valuable tool in helping some people return to the workforce and establish greater independence and brighter financial prospects. It’s just one of many programs in place that help disability recipients reenter the workforce. Read on to learn more about the range of work incentives offered by the SSA and whether you may qualify.

Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE)

This incentive allows disability recipients to deduct the cost of impairment-related expenses from the income that the Social Security Administration uses to determine eligibility for benefits. For example, if you need to purchase a wheelchair to perform your job functions, the SSA will deduct the cost of that wheelchair from your stated income. That can help preserve benefits without penalizing you for income that is used to purchase disability-related equipment that is necessary to gain and maintain employment.

Ticket to Work

The Ticket to Work program allows recipients of disability benefits to pursue job placement, training, and employment without jeopardizing the benefits they receive. It’s designed to let those with disabilities who may be able to work attempt employment without losing benefits. Many recipients would like to work but are afraid to attempt employment because of their disability status. The Ticket to Work program allows them time to test the market, attempt to gain independence through employment, and maintain needed benefits.

Trial Work Period (TWP)

The Trial Work Period is a work incentive that is often used as a component of the Ticket to Work program. It allows disability recipients to work up to nine months in a rolling five-year period without losing their SSDI benefits. That provides income stability for those who want to try to work but are unsure if their disability will prevent them from gaining and maintaining suitable employment.

Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

The Extended Period of Eligibility provides additional coverage for those who receive benefits but are interested in pursuing employment. The EPE is a three-year period following the expiration of the TWP in which disability recipients can continue to maintain their full benefits in any month in which their income from work does not meet or exceed the Substantial Gainful Activity, or SGA, level.

SSA Work Incentives

Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits

If a disability recipient can return to gainful employment for a time and stops receiving full disability benefits, the Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits provides yet another protection against total loss of monthly disbursements. For five years after monthly disability payments have ceased due to work earnings that exceed the SGA level, the recipient can reapply through an expedited program if monthly income is ever lost. Instead of reapplying for disability through the traditional channel again, the recipient can get a quick review and reinstatement of benefits within that five-year period if income is no longer received.

For those who depend on SSA disability benefits for monthly support, attempting to gain employment can be intimidating. However, the SSA’s work incentives mitigate the risk for those recipients who wish to work and gain financial independence. For more information on the many work incentives offered by the SSA to those who receive disability benefits, visit our Ticket to Work page.