Getting Past the Myths

Myth 6: I Can't Afford to Work

I’m thinking about going to work but I don’t know how I will be able to afford the new expenses for clothes, transportation, meals, and additional hours of personal assistance services.

You may need to pay for transportation to get to and from your job, or you may need to buy special tools or equipment. The following programs can help you with these and other costs.

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs)

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs) and Blind Work Expenses (BWEs) are disability-related expenses you pay for out of your own pocket so that you can work. Some examples are assistive technology, specialized office equipment, and some transportation expenses. You may be able to deduct these expenses when calculating your countable income so that it is lower. By lowering your countable income, you may be able to get higher Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or keep getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits when you are earning more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level ($1,550 in 2024; $2,590 if you're blind). If you have questions about this, talk to a Benefits Specialist.

Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

If you get SSI and have a specific work goal, you may be eligible for the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program. If you don’t get SSI benefits, you may also be eligible for the PASS program if doing it would help you become eligible for SSI. For example, if your income from SSDI prevents you from getting SSI benefits, you may be able to put your SSDI benefits into a PASS so that you can begin getting SSI benefits in addition to your SSDI benefits.

A PASS lets you save money from your earnings or SSDI benefits to pay for expenses related to your work goal. While using a PASS, you will continue getting SSI benefits to pay for your living expenses. PASS funds have to be kept separate and you have to keep records of your PASS expenses.

Social Security employs special staffers called the PASS Cadre to help you set up and understand your PASS. For more information, contact a PASS Cadre or read the DB101 page about PASS.

Vocational Rehabilitation

In some situations, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) can help pay for the costs of assistive technology, tools, and equipment related to your new job. VR can help you and your employer to figure out which services you need, regardless of who is paying for the service. If you are not working, you and a VR counselor can develop a plan to help you reach your work goals. If you are already working, you and a VR counselor can develop a plan to help you keep that work. To locate a VR office in your area where you can apply, click here.

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