Saving, Benefits, and Working

Work Incentives: It Always Pays to Work!

Work Incentives are programs that the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers to people with disabilities who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to help make it possible for people to explore work while still receiving health care and cash benefits.

The Work Incentives are slightly different depending on whether you receive SSI or SSDI; however, all the Incentives are designed to encourage you to enter, re-enter or continue in the workforce.

Three men pose together, one of whom uses a power wheelchair and holds a sign that reads #IWantToWork.
Michael is an advocate for the #IWantToWork campaign. This campaign will provide paid employment opportunities for people with disabilities during their high school years.

A few examples of SSDI Work Incentives include:

  • The trial work period. This allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months without losing your Social Security benefits, regardless of how much you earn.  
  • Extended period of eligibility benefits. After the trial period, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month in which your earnings aren’t “substantial,” as defined by the SSA.
  • Expedited reinstatement. If you continue working after the trial work period and the extended period of eligibility for benefits, your SSDI will stop. However, if within five years you are unable to continue working because of your disability, you can resume your SSDI benefits without having to file a new application.

A few examples of SSI Work Incentives include:

  • Continuation of SSI. If you begin working, SSA will continue to pay you your SSI benefits unless your earnings exceed the SSI income limits.
  • Expedited reinstatement. After SSI is stopped, if within five years, you are unable to work again because of your disability or medical condition, SSA will not require a new disability application.
  • Deduction of work expenses related to the disability. Money spent on items and services necessary for work because of your disability (e.g., an adapted vehicle, hearing aids) will be deducted from your earnings before SSA assesses your eligibility for benefits.

You can learn more about Work Incentives by reading Social Security’s Red Book (also in Spanish). 

Helpful Tip!

When you’re working and receiving SSI, within the first nine days of each month you must report your wages from the previous month. Avoid the possibility of a mistake or loss of paperwork in the mail by using the SSI Mobile Wage Reporting app, or call toll-free (800) 772-1213.

Do You Need Help Understanding the Work Incentives Programs?

There are three agencies in Pennsylvania that can provide free counseling to people who qualify for SSDI and/or SSI and who are interested in learning how working may affect their government benefits. These agencies are funded, in part, by a federal program called Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA).

Working with a WIPA agency can help you:

  • Understand the rules of specific Work Incentives;
  • Analyze how work and earnings may affect your Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), health care, and other public benefits; and 
  • Understand the services provided by PA’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

WIPAs do not make any decisions about a person’s benefits. Those decisions are made by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other agencies (including the Department of Human Services and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation).

Each of the three Pennsylvania WIPA agencies is responsible for specific areas of the state. To find out which agency covers your county, contact one of the agencies listed below. 

Western PA and the Southern Allegheny Region:

AHEDD
(866) 902-4333

Southeastern PA:

Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP)
(215) 238-8070, ext. 309

Central and Northeastern PA:

Goodwill Keystone
(888) 960-9675

A young woman organizes shelves in a pet store.
Kimiko loves animals and enjoys her job at the local pet store.

Helpful Tip!

If retirement savings will not put your government benefits in jeopardy, retirement planning is something you should begin as soon as possible. There are a whole set of rules and a lot of thinking that needs to go into planning for retirement. The U.S. Department of Labor lists a number of helpful webpages about retirement planning.