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Earned Income and SSI
Many people want to know how to get SSI and work too. Sometimes you can do just that. Whether you continue to be eligible for SSI while working depends on two things: First, after all exclusions have been applied, your combined unearned income and earned income must fall below the SSI income limit, which is less than $733 for individuals and less than $1,100 for a couple. Second, your work must not be substantial gainful activity. For an explanation of substantial gainful activity, which is called SGA for short, see our article “What Is Disability According to Social Security Disability Laws?” Although the article addresses the definition of disability for adults, the concept of SGA described in the article also applies to disabled or blind children who are working.
SSI’s Definition of Earned Income
Generally speaking earned income consists of wages from a job, whether paid in cash or in another form, payments for services performed in a sheltered workshop or work activities center, net earnings from a business if a person is self-employed. It also includes royalties earned in connection with a publication, honoraria received for services rendered, and artwork if you are a self-employed artist.
SSI Work Incentives
SSI law includes several work incentives, some of which apply only to SSI recipients and not to Social Security beneficiaries. Some incentives help you to work and continue to receive SSI. Others are designed to help you eventually return to work at a level you no longer need SSI. Some of the incentives may serve both functions at one time or another. SSI work incentives include Impairment-Related Work Expenses for the disabled, work expenses for the blind, the Student Earned Income Exclusion, the Ticket to Work, and the Plan to Achieve Self-support.
The Ticket to Work program is free and voluntary. The program connects you with a network of vocational specialists in state agencies and private companies. Some examples of services that are available through the Ticket to Work program are return-to-work planning, job-search assistance, and other support services that you may need to obtain and keep a job. If you are using a Ticket to Work, in some circumstances, your claim will not be reviewed for medical recovery.
For more detailed information about Impairment-Related Work Expenses and work expenses for the blind, see our article “I Have a Lot of Extra Work Expenses because I am Disabled. Can You Tell Me How to Get SSI to Cover Them?” Additional information on Plans to Achieve Self-Support and the Student Earned Income Exclusion, can be found in “With Some Education, I Could Work Full-time and End My SSI Disability Eligibility. How Can I Get Money for Schooling?” and “How Does Attending School Affect my SSI Disability Status?“
Continuation of Medicaid
In some circumstances, your Medicaid health insurance will continue if SSI ends because of your work. For Medicaid to continue, your income must be below your state’s Medicaid income limit. Your local Social Security office can tell you your state’s Medicaid income limit. There are three additional requirements: You need health insurance to continue working, that is, you cannot maintain health good enough to work without the medical services and goods that Medicaid provides. You cannot afford similar medical insurance. You continue to have a disabling condition; and you meet all SSI eligibility requirements, except for your earned income.
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