Impact Feature Issue on Parenting Teens and Young Adults with Disabilities

SSA Employment Support Update


Mary Hoover is a Policy Analyst, Office of Program Development and Research, SSA, Baltimore, Maryland

All youth need support as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that young people with disabilities face particularly challenging transitions. In addition to maintaining ongoing work incentives and programs, SSA continues to add new employment supports to help youth with disabilities make a successful transition from school to employment.

Ongoing Work Incentives

The following is a brief description of some of SSA’s ongoing work incentives and supports most likely to be used during the transition planning process:

  • Ticket to Work Program. This program provides individuals who want to work with vocational rehabilitation, employment services, and other support services at no cost. While an individual is using a Ticket to Work, we will not conduct a continuing disability review to see if his or her condition has medically improved.
  • Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE). SSA deducts the out-of-pocket costs of certain impairment-related items or services needed to work. These expenses are subtracted from gross earnings when SSA decides whether work performed is at the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level. These expenses are also subtracted from earned income when figuring the SSI monthly payment amount.
  • Blind Work Expenses (BWE). For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries who are statutorily blind, SSA does not count any earned income that is used to meet expenses needed to earn that income. The expenses do not have to be related to the individual’s blindness.
  • Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS). A PASS allows an SSI disability applicant or beneficiary to use income and resources to pay for things needed to reach a work goal. A PASS can establish SSI eligibility or increase or maintain the SSI payment amount by excluding the income or resources.
  • Special SSI Payments for People who Work (1619a). An SSI beneficiary can receive cash payments even when earned income is at the SGA level.
  • Medicaid While Working (1619b). An SSI beneficiary can keep Medicaid coverage even if earnings become too high for an SSI cash payment.
  • Extended Medicare. Medicare coverage continues at least 8 1/2 years after an individual first returns to work as long as his or her disabling condition continues.
  • Expedited Reinstatement (EXR). If benefits were terminated due to work activity, an individual can have benefits restarted without a new application within five years if unable to work at SGA due to a medical condition and the impairment is the same as, or related to, the previous impairment.

New Supports and Provisions

The following work incentives and provisions have recently been changed or implemented by new regulations:

  • Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE). The SEIE was increased in 2006. If an SSI beneficiary is under age 22 and regularly attending school SSA will not count up to $1,460 of earned income per month up to $5,910 a year. In April 2005, SSA removed the restriction that a student had to be unmarried and not head of a household to use the SEIE. This makes the SEIE available to people who are married, have children or live independently.
  • Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). The maximum amount of earnings a person can have and continue to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments was increased in 2006 to $860 per month for disabilities other than blindness. For blindness, the SGA was increased to $1,450 per month.
  • Trial Work Period (TWP). The TWP allows an SSDI beneficiary to test his or her ability to work for a minimum of nine months over a five-year period. During those months, the beneficiary will receive full SSDI benefits regardless of earnings as long as he or she continues to have a disabling impairment. In 2006, the monthly earnings used to determine if a month counts for the TWP was increased to $620.
  • Continued payment under a program of vocational rehabilitation, employment services, or other support services (Section 301). In July 2005, SSA extended the continuation of payments for students whose disability or blindness medically ceases if they are age 18-21 and participating in an individualized education program (IEP). Benefits will continue until they complete the IEP or stop participating for any reason. This provides students with the opportunity to continue receiving benefits while they complete school.


SSA continues to improve ongoing provisions and plan for new supports to enhance the transition process for young people with disabilities. Families who would like more information on work incentives can refer to The Red Book. For specific questions about the benefits your child is receiving call 800/772-1213 or your local SSA office.