The Basics

The possibility of work for people with disabilities is more of a reality than ever before. Many people with disabilities have meaningful jobs that they enjoy and are successful at doing. With the right kind of training, preparation, and workplace accommodations, you can have a successful career. Work will not only let you earn your own money, but also give you independence from public benefits. You will likely meet new people and make new friends at your job. You will have the opportunity to make choices about the type of job you want to do and where you want to work.

You may have heard many myths about how working will affect your disability benefits and health care coverage. You may be afraid that you will lose your benefits if you work. You may be concerned about how to get your benefits back if you stop working or need to work fewer hours because of your disability. We want to give you the facts about those myths, so you will feel comfortable and safe beginning or returning to work, and so you won’t worry about losing your benefits before you are ready.

The Social Security Administration and the state of Missouri have built many safeguards into their benefits programs that will let you begin working without losing your benefits. These safeguards are ways to keep your cash benefits and health insurance benefits, if you still need them, when you go to work or change the number of hours that you work.

In this section, we discuss 7 common myths about working and explain how they can be misleading and often discouraging for people with disabilities who want to work.

Seven myths about work and benefits
  • Myth #1: I can’t work because of my disability.
  • Myth #2: I will lose my SSI/SSDI benefits when I start to work.
  • Myth #3: If I work, I will lose my health care benefits.
  • Myth #4 : If I start working, Social Security will decide I’m not disabled anymore.
  • Myth #5: There are no resources that can help me find and keep a job.
  • Myth #6: I can’t afford the extra costs of starting to work.
  • Myth #7: I don’t need my benefits as long as I have a job, but if I have to stop working because of my disability, I won’t be able to get my benefits back.

Are You on SSI, SSDI, or Both? Why You Need to Know

People often get confused about the differences between SSI and SSDI — this is very common. It is important for you to know which program you are on (or if you are on both programs). This will help you understand how your benefits will be affected by working. If you don’t know which program(s) you are on, see if these brief explanations can help you figure it out.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a “needs-based” program. This means it is for people with little or no income and few resources. SSI pays up to $735 per month for a person. You may know that you are on SSI if you have had little or no paid work history. Another sign is that you get your cash benefits on the first of every month. If you are enrolled in the 1619(b) program, you are on SSI. People on SSI have a limit of $2,000 in resources. Read more about SSI on the Social Security website.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is also called "SSD" or "disability" or "disability insurance benefit." SSDI works like an insurance policy. When you work, a tax called FICA is deducted from your paycheck. This is how you pay into this insurance policy. If you become disabled, you can get cash benefits from SSDI. So, to be eligible for SSDI, you must have worked in the past and paid FICA taxes. The cash benefits can be anywhere from $1 to more than $2,000 per month, depending on how long you worked and paid into this system. There are no resource limits for SSDI. SSDI benefits are not paid on the first of the month. These benefits are paid on the third of the month or on the second, third, or fourth Wednesday of the month. Read more about SSDI on the Social Security website.

If you’re still not sure which program(s) you’re on, you may want to request something called a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) from your local Social Security office. A BPQY statement has information about which disability benefits you get, including your cash benefits, health care benefits, and work history. To read Social Security's BPQY manual, click here (PDF).