Discussing Social Security Work Incentives

Throughout the employment process, EN representatives and counselors working for State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies should ensure that beneficiaries have access to information on Social Security work incentives. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs offer a number of employment support provisions commonly referred to as "work incentives." These rules are tools that beneficiaries can use to reduce their "countable" earnings to temporarily keep cash benefits while initially exploring work. Work incentives help beneficiaries enter, re-enter, or continue in employment by protecting their eligibility for cash payments and/or health care coverage until they achieve self-supporting employment.

The work incentive rules are complex and may be confusing for beneficiaries. Some work incentives are available to SSI recipients only, some to SSDI beneficiaries only, and some to both SSI and SSDI beneficiaries. Since a beneficiary's work and earnings can impact his/her continued eligibility for disability benefits or, for SSI recipients, the amount of the monthly disability benefit, every beneficiary should consult with a certified benefits counselor prior to entering the workforce and whenever an increase in earnings is expected. For agencies with certified benefits counselors on staff, beneficiaries should be encouraged to consult with these important internal resources. If the agency does not house such expertise, Social Security offers the following free sources of information on work incentives.

  • The Social Security Red Book - A Summary Guide to Employment Supports for Persons with Disabilities under the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs provides a brief summary of every available work incentive.
    • Download the Red Book
    • Request Publication No. 64-030 ICN 436900 by:

Calling: 1.410.965.2039
Faxing: 1.410.965.2037 OR
Emailing: OPLM.OSWM.RQCT.Orders@ssa.gov

  • Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) projects are free sources of benefits planning assistance that are available to consult with beneficiaries who have a job offer, are about to start a new job, or are considering a promotion or a new job that will result in an increase in earnings. WIPA's certified benefits planners, known as Community Work Incentives Coordinators or CWICs, are available to consult with beneficiaries on their personal situations and provide advice regarding how work and earnings will likely impact disability benefits and access to medical coverage. Visit the website at Choose Work and click on the "Find Help" map to find the WIPA serving your area.

  • The Ticket Program Manager hosts virtual Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. These seminars provide basic information on Social Security work incentives, including the Ticket program. Beneficiaries can register for WISE events.

  • Contact the Beneficiary Call Center at 1.866.968.7842 or 1.866.833.2967 (TDD) if you have general questions about Social Security work incentives.