Disability Benefits & Support

Overview

Photo of a woman in a wheelchair smiling.

Work Incentives Connection

Get specialized answers about the impact of work on government disability benefits to help people make informed and confident employment decisions.

  • Undergo a benefits analysis to understand available options and answer health insurance questions.
  • Learn how to report earnings from employment to Social Security and other agencies.
  • Identify the timing of changes in benefits once you begin working; planning calendars and 1-1 assistance are available.
  • Answer critical health insurance questions.
  • To be eligible you must be between ages 16-64 and receiving either SSDI or SSI benefits.

Call 1-800-976-6728 (toll-free) or 651-632-5113 (MN Relay – 711).

News and Updates

  • The Social Security Administration announces cost-of-living changes for 2020
    Social Security announced cost-of-living (COLA) changes that affect recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beginning January 1, 2020. Beneficiaries of SSDI and SSI will receive a 1.6 percent increase in 2020. The COLA also applies to a number of Social Security work incentives, such as Trial Work Period, Substantial Gainful Activity Rate, and the SSI Federal Benefit Rate. Learn more here. 
  • Current Work Incentives Connection newsletter

How We Can Help

Ask certified work incentives counselors (CWICs) about SSDI, SSI, Medical Assistance, Medicare, SNAP, subsidized housing or other benefit program rules when working. We can:

  • Research benefits issues and assist by advocating directly with government representatives.
  • Explain the work incentives available to you and provide a benefits analysis.
  • Coach you on how to report earnings from employment to Social Security and other agencies.
  • Identify the timing of changes in your benefits once you begin working.
  • Follow up with you regarding any benefits changes.
  • Answer critical health insurance questions related to work.
  • Explain Social Security's "Ticket to Work" program and provide information and referral to other resources, as needed. You can also call the Ticket to Work Helpline at 1-866-968-7842 (1-866-833-2967 for TTY).

Services are provided in partnership with Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitative Services, as well as the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance project of the Social Security Administration. No person served will be charged a fee for services.

Benefits Analysis

A benefits analysis gives you clear information to make your own choices about working.  In-depth reports are developed for individuals who want thorough, written information about their benefits; a description of how each of their benefits is affected by working; and instructions about tracking and reporting their earnings.

  1. A detailed report explains how your work and earnings affect each specific benefit. Special work incentives and health care options that apply to your situation are identified.
  2. An available income summary shows how your earnings affect your financial bottom line at varying levels of work and earnings.
  3. A benefits information and action plan provides reporting, contact and follow-up information.

Outreach, Education and Eligibility

We offer community education presentations and meetings throughout Minnesota to inform people with disabilities, family members, social service staff and employment support professionals how specialized benefits planning services can help increase financial independence.

Our trained team holds certification by Virginia Commonwealth University as CWICs, have passed a Social Security Administration background and suitability screening and provide services via phone or in-person.

Anyone can call us with questions about work and benefits. Assistance is provided to people with all types of disabilities throughout Minnesota, as well as family members, vocational or other service providers, advocates and others assisting people with disabilities. You must be between ages 16-64 and receiving either SSDI or SSI benefits.

Get answers and support at 1-800-976-6728 (toll-free) or 651-632-5113 (MN Relay – 711).

Medical Assistance

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Medical Assistance

Medicaid is a federal program in which the federal government matches money from the state to help people pay for their health care. In Minnesota, the Medicaid program is called Medical Assistance (MA). It is overseen at the state level by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and is administered at the local level by each county.

Learn about medical assistance for employed people with disabilities.
MA covers all medically necessary health care services, including long-term care services needed by many people with disabilities. Each person must meet a basis of eligibility as well as income and asset limits. MA can pay retroactively for up to three months of health care services if the person meets eligibility requirements.

For more information, contact your county financial worker or your county economic assistance office.

MA Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility bases are established by federal categories. To be eligible, you must be:

  • Certified blind or disabled through the Social Security Administration or the State Medical Review Team (SMRT) age 65 or over
  • Pregnant
  • Under age 21
  • A parent or caretaker of a dependent child

Income and Asset Limits

After the person establishes a basis of eligibility (disabled, aged, etc.), they must then meet asset and income limits.

Asset limits

  • $3,000 limit for a single person
  • $6,000 limit for a family of two
  • $200 for each additional dependent

Assets can include checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, 401(k) accounts, other savings and retirement plans or things like a house, car, burial funds, life insurance, etc. These assets do not count towards MA limits:

  • $1,500 pre-paid burial or Cash Surrender Value (CSV) life insurance
  • Burial space items
  • A vehicle (under certain conditions)
  • Your home
  • Household, personal goods and some business assets

Income limits

In addition to the asset limits, the individual must also meet income limits. This income does not count towards MA limits:

  • Food support
  • Loans (except student loans)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Payments
  • Disaster relief
  • MFIP, GA and MSA
  • SSI and all income used to determine SSI eligibility, including 1619(b) eligibility
  • Tax rebates

If a person with a disability has countable income under the limit shown below for their household size, they are eligible for MA at no cost, except co-pays (effective through 6/30/20).

Household Size Maximum Income Per Month
1 $1,041
2 $1,410
3 $1,779
4 $2,184
5 $2,517
6 $2,886

If a person with a disability has countable income greater than the amount listed above, they may still be eligible for MA. However, they may need to pay a spend down in order to receive assistance. A spend down is the amount of money a person has to pay out-of-pocket for health care expenses each month before MA starts to pay for the rest of their health care bills. Certain types of income are not counted in determining the spend down amount.

Household size If countable income is above Must spend down to 80% of Federal Poverty Guidelines
1 $1,041 $844
2 $1,410 $1,143
3 $1,779 $1,442
4 $2,184 $1,741
5 $2,517 $2,040
6 $2,886 $2,339


Co-pays for MA

Whether an individual receives MA at no cost or has to pay a spend down, they must make co-payments when they receive certain services:

  • $3 for non-preventive office visits
  • $3 for eye exams, eye glasses
  • $3.50 for non-emergency ER visits
  • $1 for generic prescription drugs and $3 for name-brand drugs, with a maximum monthly co-pay of $12 for all MA-funded prescription drugs

Contact your health care providers to find out if you have to pay a co-pay for their services. There are no co-pays or dollar limits at all on services for children under 21, people in long-term care facilities or pregnant women.

Medical Assistance coverage

Some of the services covered by MA in Minnesota are:

  • Physicians services
  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital care
  • Lab and x-ray
  • Home health and personal care assistance services
  • Physical, occupational, speech, respiratory and rehabilitative therapies
  • Prescription drugs
  • Group homes for people with mental retardation
  • Mental health treatment
  • Eye exams, glasses, and hearing aids
  • Medical equipment and supplies
  • Dental services
  • Medical transportation services
  • Chemical dependency treatment
  • Private duty nursing
  • Chiropractic
  • Nursing facilities
  • Family planning
  • Hospice care
  • Other health care services

If you have other health insurance that the state determines is cost effective, MA may also pay the premiums for that insurance.

How to Apply for MA

Call or go to your county economic assistance office. If you only want to apply for MA, you will be asked to complete a Health Care Programs Application Form (HCAPP). If you also want to apply for Minnesota Supplemental Aid, Food Support or other cash assistance, you will be asked to complete a Combined Application Form (CAF) and have an interview.

Continuing MA Coverage

Every six months, MA recipients are asked to complete and return a Household Report Form with updated information about income, assets and family size. The county financial worker reviews each individual's situation to determine continuing eligibility for MA. Always complete, sign and date all forms sent by MA. If you do not respond, you could lose your MA coverage.

Additional Information

More information can be found on the Medical Assistance page at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

MA for Employed People with Disabilities (MA-EPD)

Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) allows people with disabilities who work to receive MA at relatively low cost. Minnesotans with disabilities are eligible for MA-EPD if they meet all of these requirements:

  • Are employed with earnings from a job of over $65 per month
  • Are paying Medicare and Social Security taxes
  • Have been determined to have a disability by either the Social Security Administration or the State Medical Review Team
  • Have no more than $20,000 in assets, not counting retirement accounts, medical expense accounts, a spouse's assets or other assets excluded by MA (such as a home, a vehicle and household goods)
  • Are not eligible for basic MA including 1619(b)

What can MA-EPD do for you?

  • It can provide coverage for prescription drugs, personal care assistance, medical supplies and equipment and other health care costs.
  • It can reimburse you for your Medicare Part B premium if your income is below certain limits (even if you are not eligible for reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums, MA-EPD requires that you accept and pay for Medicare Part B if you are eligible for it).
  • It can pay for the premiums associated with private insurance that have been determined cost effective.

MA-EPD eligibility requirements and premium levels change from time to time. For more information on MA-EPD:

Social Security

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Social Security

Eligibility for SSA benefits for people with disabilities

People with disabilities may qualify for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), based on their own work history, based on the work history of a parent or spouse who is retired, disabled or deceased or based on financial need. Comparison of SSA’s programs for people with disabilities

Applying for benefits

Social Security Administration benefits - Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  • Call 1-800-772-1213 to apply for SSI or SSDI benefits and request an appointment to apply for benefits. Your appointment can either be by phone or in person at your local SSA office. SSA staff will assist you in completing the application forms.
  • Apply online for disability benefits.
  • More information on applying for SSA benefits

County benefits - Medical Assistance, Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly Food Support, Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) and general assistance

  • To apply for benefits from the county, find the number for your county office. Then, contact the County Economic Assistance unit in the county you live.

Subsidized Housing

  • To apply for Subsidized Housing, contact your local Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Social Security announces annual increases

Each year, the Social Security Administration raises certain limits related to their work rules for people with disabilities. These limits are expected to increase again on Jan. 1 of next year.

Knowing which benefits you receive

The first step in avoiding benefit overpayments and underpayments is to verify the amounts and types of benefits that you receive. Social Security Administration (SSA) and other public program rules about working vary. It is critical you know which benefits you receive, so you will know which specific work rules apply to your situation.

If you are working with the Minnesota Work Incentives Connection, we may verify your benefits as part of our assistance to you. If you want to check on your own benefits, you can do so at no cost. There are three ways to verify your benefits through Social Security:

  1. Benefits Verification Letter - Call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY) and request a Benefits Verification Letter. You will need your Social Security number and may be able to get initial verification verbally.
  2. Create a my Social Security account online. Once you have created an account for yourself, you can go into my Social Security and request your benefit verification letter. You are also able to access other services through your my Social Security account, such as changing your address and phone number, request replacement Social Security or Medicare cards, and report wages if you work and receive SSDI.
  3. Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) - Call your local SSA office or 1-800-772-1213 and request a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) for more complete information about your benefits.
  • The (BPQY) contains information about the type of benefits you receive, the date you became eligible for benefits along with the current benefit amount you and your family members receive. There is also a section that verifies your Medicare eligibility date.
  • Much of the rest of the BPQY summarizes your work activity as recorded in SSA's electronic records. If your work activity is not up to date with SSA, the information in your BPQY, especially information about the Trial Work Period (TWP), may be incorrect.
  • If any of the information on the BPQY appears to be incorrect based on your information, contact your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to resolve any discrepancies.
  • If you are a beneficiary interested in getting a BPQY, call your local SSA office at 1-800-772-1213 and ask for one. It will be mailed to the address shown on your SSA records. A signed consent form is needed if the BPQY is to be sent to someone other than the beneficiary.
  • Additional information about the BPQY.

Monitoring wages and benefits

Monitoring your benefits can be very complex, especially if you receive multiple benefits. What each benefits provider needs from you varies according to your personal circumstances. If you follow the simple steps listed below, you will have all or most of the information they might request.

There are a few easy steps that you can take for effective benefits monitoring:

  • Verify with your various benefits providers which benefits you receive and the benefit amounts.
  • Keep a calendar that shows your work schedule including when you use holiday, sick and vacation pay. Call the Work Incentives Connection for an easy to use tracking calendar.
  • Keep all paystubs and make copies before you send them to your benefits providers.
  • Report to all of your benefit providers whenever you change jobs or have a change in work hours, pay rates, other benefits or your living situation. The most common benefits providers to report to would be your local Social Security Administration office, your County Financial Worker and your Housing Provider.
  • Document everything - keep good notes about your conversations with benefits providers (date, time, the person you talked to, and what was said when you spoke them the person). Also, keep all letters you receive about your benefits, even if they are hard to understand.

Most importantly, be sure to report to your benefits providers whenever you start and stop work and when you have changes in your wages. This will help avoid overpayments. Here is a telephone log to track every time you talk to someone to document for your records.


Responding to Social Security Administration (SSA) overpayments

Receiving an overpayment notice from the Social Security Administration (SSA) is frustrating and frightening for most people. Overpayments can range from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. It is very important you respond to an overpayment letter within 60 days or you may lose your opportunity to appeal SSA's decision.

Luckily, the procedures for appealing an overpayment are included with each overpayment notice. Here are tips to determine which steps to take:

  • Ask SSA for a reconsideration when you think the overpayment is incorrect or that SSA is using inaccurate information.
  • Ask SSA for a waiver when you think that the overpayment is correct, but you do not think you were at fault for the overpayment and also do not have the resources to repay an overpayment.
  • How to respond to overpayments.

Other things to know:

  • People usually do not need a lawyer to file an initial appeal.
  • Small overpayments can sometimes be waived by asking for an administrative waiver.
  • Documenting overlooked Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE) and Subsidy often reduces or eliminates overpayments.
  • If you need to repay an overpayment, you may be able to negotiate a monthly payment amount that fits your budget.
  • The best thing to do is to avoid overpayments in the first place by carefully monitoring wages and benefits.

Legal assistance for Social Security recipients

Although the Work Incentives Connection can help you resolve many different issues with your benefits providers, there may be times when you need to consult an attorney. The Minnesota Disability Law Center is a resource that provides legal assistance to people with disabilities.


Expedited Reinstatement of Social Security Cash Benefits

Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) allows people whose Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits ended because of their earnings to have those benefits restarted without having to file a completely new application.

The purpose is to encourage people to work more by removing fears that they won’t be able to access Social Security again if their situation changes. Paperwork for EXR is minimal and the process is relatively quick. Under EXR, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may pay up to 6 months of provisional benefits while they determine if the individual still meets their criteria for receiving benefits based on a disability. If SSA denies the request for ongoing benefits, they generally will not require that the individual repay the provisional benefits.

You must say yes to all of these to qualify:

  • You stopped receiving SSDI due to earnings from work.
  • Are no longer earning more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level in 2019, which is $1,220 per month for people with disabilities or $2,040 per month for blind beneficiaries.
  • Are currently unable to earn over SGA.
  • Have the same disability as when you applied initially.
  • Make the request for reinstatement within 60 months (5 years) from the month SSA terminated the previous benefits.

How to apply

Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 and ask for an appointment to apply for Expedited Reinstatement. Or, visit your local Social Security Administration office. Note: Your Social Security representative may recommend you complete a new application instead of pursuing EXR. This may be more advantageous for you depending on your situation.

Additional information

Once you have received 24 months of benefits after qualifying for EXR, you will get a new Trial Work Period (TWP) and Extended Period of Eligibility to test your ability to increase your earnings again.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI needs-based benefits provide a minimum income level for individuals who have limited resources with little or no income, and who are blind, aged or disabled.

The SSI payment is designed to bring a person’s income up to a certain minimum level. People who receive SSI can have earnings and still receive SSI payments. SSA will consider the extent of your disability, your previous work history, your current earnings, your assets and your age when determining which benefits are appropriate for you. The Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) is the maximum monthly SSI payment: $783 for an individual and $1,175 for a couple in 2020. Only Social Security can determine which programs, if any, you qualify for. If you are not eligible for SSI, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or retirement benefits.

What should I know about SSI?

  • Monthly SSI payments fluctuate with increases and decreases in earnings, based on a set formula. SSI calculates payments based on the money received each month.
  • People who receive SSI are also eligible for Medical Assistance (MA) health care coverage at no cost.
  • It is possible to earn enough to reduce your SSI check to $0 and still be eligible for MA at no cost. (See 1619b)
  • You do not need a prior work history to receive SSI.
  • SSI is the only program administered by SSA that has an asset limit ($2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple).
  • The start and stop of work, even small changes in income, need to be reported to your local SSA office to prevent overpayments and underpayments.

The rules for SSI are very different than those for SSDI. Be sure you know which benefit you receive!

Additional resources:

Impairment Related Work Expenses

Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE) is a work incentive available to individuals who receive SSDI and/or SSI. An IRWE allows certain expenses, necessary to go to work, to be disregarded from the amount of earnings counted by Social Security Administration (SSA). An IRWE expense must be:

  • Paid for out of your own pocket and not reimbursed by any other source.
  • Related to a serious health condition.
  • Necessary in order to work.
  • Approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA)

Possible IRWE expenses:

  • Attendant care costs in certain situations
  • Modification costs for vehicles and other items
  • Transportation costs in certain situations
  • Medical device costs
  • Medication costs
  • Medical service expenses
  • Out-of-pocket job coaching expenses

How can an IRWE help me?

  • If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your SSI check is gradually reduced as your earnings increase. The amount of an approved IRWE is deducted from the earnings counted by SSA, giving you a higher SSI check than you would otherwise receive.
  • The cost of an IRWE may also be used when determining initial eligibility for SSDI and SSI to reduce the individual’s income below SGA.

What else do I need to know?

IRWE rules require specific criteria to be met and specific documentation to be kept. IRWEs need to be approved by your local Social Security office before they can be go into effect.

Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS)

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and have a specific vocational goal, a Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) may help you reach it. PASS allows you to save money for school, buying a modified vehicle, paying for new business start-up costs, or other expenses related to becoming self-sufficient. Using a PASS allows you to set aside income from employment and/or your SSDI check in order to save for these special expenses, while continuing to receive an SSI check to pay your daily living expenses.

Basically, a portion of your earnings and/or SSDI cash payment are not considered in calculating the SSI payment. This means your SSI payment will not decrease when you work.

The funds you are using for your PASS must be kept separate from other money and you must keep records of your PASS expenses. Any changes in the amount of money put into your PASS account must be approved by the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a group of staff members, called the PASS Cadre, who can help you understand all the aspects of a PASS. The PASS Cadre coordinates PASS activities from start to finish and can help you in preparing your PASS application.

Your PASS must be in writing and approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) using this PASS application form. Another resource is the PASS fact sheet.


Contact your PASS Cadre:

Individuals in Minnesota except those listed below in northwestern Minnesota, call Joani Werner at 1-866-667-6032 ext. 10661.

Individuals living in northwestern Minnesota (Crookston, East Grand Forks, Fergus Falls, Moorhead) and eastern North Dakota (Fargo), call Thomas Sprunt at1-866-690-2075 Ext 19506.


Student Earned Income Exclusion: SSI work incentive only

The Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) helps students keep more of their SSI check while they gain work experience. The SEIE is available to SSI recipients who meet the following requirements:

  • Under age 22
  • Regularly attending school (some restrictions apply)
  • Receiving SSI payments
  • Working

An SSI recipient who meets these requirements can earn up to $1,870 per month in wages in 2019 before there is any reduction to their SSI check. There is a maximum exclusion of $7,550 per year in 2019.

The Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) is the ideal work incentive for students who work while in school and want to increase work hours during the summer or between semesters.


Example: Andrea is a 20 year old college student and receives $825 per month at her job in the book store and is an SSI recipient.

Monthly wages $825
SEIE -$825
Countable income for SSI $0

Without using the SEIE, Andrea's SSI payment would be reduced to $401 because of her earnings. Andrea will be able to exclude $825 per month through the SEIE for over nine months before she reaches the maximum annual exclusion ($7,550 in 2019).

SSI Federal Benefits Rate (FBR) $783
SEIE -$0
SSI payment using SEIE $783

Blind Work Expenses

Blind Work Expenses (BWEs) are available only to individuals who receive SSI benefits based on blindness. If you are blind, earned income you use to pay for work expenses may not count in calculating your SSI check amount, even if the expense is unrelated to blindness.

Some examples of BWEs are:

  • Guide dog expenses
  • Transportation costs to and from work
  • Federal, state and local income taxes
  • Social Security taxes
  • Attendant care services
  • Visual and sensory aids
  • Translation of materials into Braille
  • Professional association fees and union dues

If you are an SSI recipient and have any BWEs, the cost of these expenses will result in a dollar-for-dollar increase in your SSI payment. (The maximum SSI payment for an individual is $771 in 2019, and $1,157 for a couple in 2019).

What else do I need to know?

BWEs require specific criteria be met and specific documentation be kept. BWEs also need to be approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) before they can be considered to be in effect. For rules that apply to individuals who are blind, refer to the SSA website.


1619(b): SSI Work Incentive only

Section 1619(b) allows people on SSI who work to continue receiving Medical Assistance (MA) at no cost, even when their earnings reduce their SSI check to $0. 1619(b) status is available only to SSI recipients.

How can 1619(b) status help me?

  • You can continue to receive Medical Assistance (MA) benefits at no cost even when SSI cash payments stop.
  • If your earned and/or unearned income drops, you may again be eligible for an SSI cash payment without having to reapply for benefits.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be eligible for an SSI cash payment for at least one month prior to accessing 1619(b)
  • Have an SSI payment that must be reduced because of earnings
  • Be disabled
  • Continue to meet the asset requirements $2,000 for individuals, $3,000 for a couple
  • Need MA in order to work
  • Have gross earned income insufficient to replace the cost of the Medical Assistance services you need. (In 2018, Minnesotans on SSI 1619(b) can earn up to $53,154 per year or more if they have high health care expenses.)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The SSDI program provides monthly cash benefits to people with disabilities who have worked and paid in a certain amount of Social Security/FICA tax. People who become disabled prior to age 22 may also be able to receive disability insurance benefits if they have a parent who dies, retires or becomes disabled. This is often referred to as Retirement, Survivors, Disability Insurance (RSDI). SSDI and RSDI have basically the same rules for people with disabilities who work.

People on SSDI/RSDI become eligible for Medicare health coverage 24 months after they begin receiving cash benefits. Since Medicare does not cover long-term care services, such as personal care assistance, many people on SSDI benefits also need Medical Assistance (MA). There is a specific MA program available to people with disabilities who are working. It is called Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities or MA-EPD.

Eligibility

When applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or any other program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSA will determine which programs, if any, you qualify for. If you are not eligible for SSDI, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or retirement benefits. See Social Security’s definition of disability here.

SSA will consider the extent of your disability, your previous work history, your current earnings and your age when determining which benefits are appropriate for you. To apply, call SSA at 1-800-772-1213, or go to the Social Security website.

What should I know about SSDI and going to work?

  • When receiving SSDI, and planning to go to work, you should know if you are in your Trial Work Period (TWP), Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) or beyond. This will determine how your benefits are affected.
  • Earning over the limits for SSDI, called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), may make you ineligible for an SSDI payment. SGA is $1,220 per month in 2019; $2,040 for those with blindness.
  • There are ways to earn above SGA and still receive a SSDI payment.
  • The start and stop of work, as well as any changes in earnings, need to be reported to your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office.

Work incentives for people on SSDI flyer

Trial Work Period (TWP)

SSDI work incentive only. The Trial Work Period (TWP) is a 9-month period, which allows you to test your ability to work. When in your TWP, you can earn significant income and continue to receive an SSDI payment. This is especially helpful for people who want to return to work full time, but are not sure if they can.

Trial Work Period features

  • When you first return to work, you enter the Trial Work Period when you earn a minimum of $880 per month in 2019. Prior to 2019, the Trial Work month thresholds in each year were:
    • $850 in 2018
    • $840 in 2017
    • $810 in 2016
    • $780 in 2015
    • $770 in 2014
  • Each month you earn above the Trial Work limit counts as one Trial Work month.
  • If you earn less than the Trial Work limit, the month does not count toward your nine, Trial Work months.
  • There are different rules for people who are self employed. Contact the Work Incentives Connection or your local SSA office if you are self-employed and in your Trial Work Period.
  • During the Trial Work Period, you continue to receive your full SSDI payment each month.

Additional information about TWP

  • Many people use Trial Work months without realizing it. Contact your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office every time you start and stop work and report your income regularly.
  • When starting a new job, always check with your local SSA office to see if you have any Trial Work Months remaining. If you have completed your Trial Work Period, different rules apply to your situation. See the Extended Period of Eligibility which comes after the Trial Work Period.
  • Save all of your paystubs and keep pertinent information regarding your work history. If the information kept by SSA is incomplete, you may be asked to provide information about your work record and earnings.
  • There are different rules for people who are self employed.

Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

SSDI work incentive only. The Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) begins the month after your Trial Work Period (TWP) ends and lasts for 36 consecutive months.

During your EPE, you will continue to receive an SSDI payment in each month your earnings are below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level. In 2020, SGA is $1,260 per month ($2,110 per month for people receiving benefits based on blindness). You are not entitled to an SSDI payment in months when you earn more than the SGA limit, unless you can use work incentives. The change in your payment is often referred to as “all or nothing”. SSDI does not reduce your payment to a partial payment. You either receive the whole payment, or no payment for that month. You are eligible for an SSDI payment in any of the following months your earnings drop below SGA again, during the EPE.

EPE features:

  • SSDI cash payments continue when earning below SGA, as long as you continue to have a disability.
  • Your eligibility for SSDI cash payments can vary from month-to-month, depending if your earnings are above or below the SGA level. A reapplication for benefits is not needed.
  • Many people use the EPE as a time to see if they can handle working full time. If you cannot continue to earn above the SGA level ($1,220 per month in 2019, or $2,040 per month if blind), SSDI payments can be reinstated by calling the local Social Security Administration (SSA) office and informing them when earnings fall below the SGA level.

Additional information about EPE:

  • Report to your local SSA office when your earnings are above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level since it would mean your SSDI checks should stop.
  • Always inform the local SSA office when you start and stop work; it may affect how quickly your SSDI payments are restarted.
  • The more timely your earnings information is reported, the more accurate your SSDI payments will be and the less likely you will be overpaid or underpaid.
  • SSDI counts your earnings as they are earned, not as they are received. This means that it is more accurate to calculate your earnings by adding up your hours worked and multiplying by your hourly wage than to look at the amount received on your paychecks. More information on how to monitor benefits.

Subsidy

A subsidy is a Work Incentive may use for individuals receive SSDI. The value of the subsidy is deducted from your countable earnings when determining if you have earned above the Substantial Gainful Activity level (SGA, $1,220 per month in 2019, or $2,040 if blind). The value of the subsidy is deducted from your countable earnings when determining if you have earned above the Substantial Gainful Activity level (SGA, $1,180 per month in 2018, or $1,970 if blind).

This allows you to continue receiving an SSDI check, even though your actual earnings exceed the SGA level. Subsidy is only used if you are earning above SGA and after the completion of the Trial Work Period.

Examples of subsidy:

  • Job coaching
  • Extra help with certain tasks from a co-worker or supervisor
  • Fewer or different duties
  • Extra breaks
  • Extra time to complete your work

Any subsidy you claim must be approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can have your employer or job coach complete the Work Incentives Connection's Subsidy Identification Tool below. They can either complete it online and print it out, or print it out first and complete it by hand. Then, submit it to your SSA representative who will determine the amount of subsidy you receive.

Subsidy Identification Tool

If your earnings are approaching the SGA limits ($1,220 per month in 2019, or $2,040 if blind), contact the Goodwill-Easter Seals Work Incentives Connection to see if subsidy or other work incentives might apply to your situation.

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs)

Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE) is a work incentive available to individuals who receive SSDI and/or SSI. If you receive SSDI, IRWEs are used only if you have completed your Trial Work Period and are earning more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level, which is $1,220 per month in 2019 ($2,040 for those receiving benefits based on blindness).

An IRWE expense must be:

  • Paid for out of your own pocket and not reimbursed by any other source
  • Related to a serious health condition
  • Necessary in order to work
  • Approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA)

Possible IRWE expenses:

  • Attendant care costs in certain situations
  • Modification costs for vehicles and other items
  • Transportation costs in certain situations
  • Medical device costs
  • Medication costs
  • Medical service expenses
  • Out-of-pocket job coaching expenses

How can an IRWE help me?

  • If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you are usually ineligible for a benefit check if you earn more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level. With an approved IRWE, SSA doesn’t count earnings you use to pay for certain expenses, which allows your SSDI benefits to continue even though you are earning more than the SGA level.
  • The cost of an IRWE may also be used when determining initial eligibility for SSDI and SSI, in order to reduce the individual’s countable income below SGA.

What else do I need to know?

IRWE rules require that specific criteria be met and specific documentation be kept. IRWEs also need to be approved by your local Social Security office before they can be considered to be in effect.

Plan for Achieving Self Support (PASS)

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and have a specific vocational goal, PASS may help you reach it. PASS allows you to save money for school, buying a modified vehicle, paying for new business start-up costs or other expenses related to becoming self-sufficient. Using a PASS allows you to set aside income from employment and/or your SSDI check to save for these special expenses, while receiving an SSI check to pay for your daily living expenses.

The funds you are using for your PASS must be kept separate from other money, and you must keep records of your PASS expenses. Any changes in the amount of money put into your PASS account must be approved by the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a group of staff members,called the PASS Cadre, who can help you understand all the aspects of a PASS. The PASS Cadre coordinates PASS activities from start to finish, and can help you in preparing your PASS application.
 

  • PASS Cadre for all individuals in Minnesota, except for those listed below in Northwestern Minnesota, contact Joani Werner at 1-866-667-6032 ext. 10661.
  • Denver PASS Cadre who serves the Northwestern edge of Minnesota. Clients who are served by Fergus Falls, Moorhead, East Grand Forks and Crookston SSA offices, contact Thomas Sprunt at 1-866-690-2075 Ext 19506.

Your request for a PASS must be in writing and approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). PASS application form: Social Security Administration PASS application form. See the PASS Fact Sheet for more details.

After the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

If your earnings are over SGA and work incentives do not apply after your 36 month EPE, your SSDI payment will stop. If your earnings later drop below SGA you may be able to have your SSDI payment restarted. Social Security offers these two options:

  1. File a new application
  2. Use Expedited Reinstatement

Expedited Reinstatement (EXR)

Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) provides a safety net for individuals who work off their benefits. Expedited Reinstatement allows people whose Social Security benefits ended due to earnings over SGA to have those benefits restarted without having to file a new application. Detailed information about EXR can be found here.

More details about Medicare.

More details about Medical Assistance.

Medicare

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Medicare

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older, certain people with disabilities under age 65, and people of any age who have permanent kidney failure. A person receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) becomes eligible for Medicare after a 24 month waiting period from the date SSDI payments started. There are three main parts to the Medicare program: Part A covering hospital services; Part B for medical services; and Part D for Prescription Drug coverage.

Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A helps to cover costs for inpatient care in hospitals, short-term skilled nursing facility care costs, some home health care, and hospice care in some instances. Part A coverage starts automatically after the 24 month waiting period. Coverage for in-patient hospitalization includes a semi-private room, meals, nursing care and other health care services.

If you aren’t sure if you have Part A coverage, look at your red, white and blue Medicare card. If you have Part A coverage, “Hospital (Part A)” is printed in the lower left hand corner of your card. Most people do not pay a premium for Part A coverage. Most do have to pay deductibles and co-insurance.

Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B helps to cover your doctors’ visits, services and outpatient health care. It can also cover clinical lab services, short-term home health care in some instances, durable medical equipment, and mental health care. Social Security determines each individual’s Medicare cost at the beginning of the year, as it depends on a number of factors. In addition to this monthly premium, most individuals also pay deductibles and co-insurance. If you have limited income, your county may be able to help you pay some or all of these costs, as well as the Part B premium. (For information on help paying Medicare costs, click here: Medicare Savings Programs)

If you decline Part B coverage when it is first offered to you and later want that coverage, there may be a penalty you need to pay each month in addition to the premium. Also, many county programs require you take Medicare Part B in order to be eligible for additional health care assistance. You should carefully research the impact of turning down Part B coverage with your county office and the Social Security Administration.

Examples of items/services not paid for by Original Medicare Part A/ Part B:

Routine or yearly physical exams (except one time, preventative physical exam within the first 6 months that you have Medicare Part B):

  • Vaccinations except Flu, Pneumonia, and Hepatitis B
  • Orthopedic shoes
  • Personal Care Assistance
  • Dental care and dentures (most)
  • Routine foot care
  • Hearing aids
  • Routine eye care
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Most services outside the U.S.

Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage

The Minnesota Work Incentives Connection has two flyers with information about the Medicare Prescription Drug Program:

Medicare Advantage (formerly called Medicare + Choice)

In an effort to manage costs, increase coverage, and allow choice, Medicare offers special plans that can be elected in place of the Original Medicare Plan. The Medicare Advantage plans help cover additional services like dental care, dentures, hearing aids, eye care and some prescription drugs. The premiums, deductibles and co-insurance may be different for these programs than for the Original Medicare Plan. All Medicare Advantage plans must offer the same coverage as the Original Medicare Plan, plus provide some additional services. They can limit the doctors you are able to see and can require that you only see providers in their plan. The costs of Medicare Advantage may be less for you than the Original Medicare Plan, depending upon your medical needs and out-of pocket medical expenses. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage similar to Medigap policies at a much lower cost.

For more information about anything related to Medicare, contact:

Call Minnesota's Linkage Line at any of these phone numbers.
1-800-333-2433
1-866-333-2466
1-800- MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
877-486-2048 (TTY)

Additional resources

Resources

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Helpful Resources

Other Benefit Programs

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly called Food Stamps)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enables low income individuals and families to supplement their food budget, in order to better meet their nutritional needs. To apply for SNAP, contact your County Financial Worker. If you do not have a financial worker, contact your county human services office.

A number of deductions can be claimed in determining if you are within the income limits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These include deductions for dependent care, child support paid by you, rent, utilities and other items. The Medical Expense Deduction is sometimes used by people with disabilities. SNAP allows medical expenses over a certain amount to increase the amount of assistance provided.

Allowable expenses can include:

  • Medical, dental and hospital care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Medicare premiums
  • Costs related to service animals
  • Spend down expenses
  • Certain other expenses

Expenses must be paid by you, verifiable and reported to your county financial worker. If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) and have out-of-pocket health care expenses, call your county financial worker to ask about this deduction.

Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP)

The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) provides cash assistance, food support, health coverage, child care assistance and employment supports to low income families with children. MFIP helps families work their way out of poverty by expecting, supporting and rewarding work. Benefits received are based on household composition and income. In certain cases, people receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration may qualify to receive MFIP payments for their children.

To apply for MFIP, contact your county financial worker. If you do not already have a financial worker, contact your county human services office.

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA)

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) provides a monthly cash supplement to people who are aged, blind or disabled. In order to be eligible, a person typically must be receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If the individual does not receive SSI, then their income must be within MSA income guidelines. People with special dietary needs may be eligible for MSA’s Special Needs Diet allowance, which allows them to receive a higher MSA payment.

To apply for MSA, contact your county financial worker. If you do not have a financial worker, contact your county human services office.

Long-Term Disability

Private, long-term disability insurance policies vary widely, particularly in their rules about how benefits are affected by returning to work. Consult your written policy or contact your former employer or insurance agent if you have questions. If you encounter difficulties, the Minnesota Department of Commerce may be able to offer assistance. Call 651-296-2488 and press 1 for insurance complaints. For general guidelines on work and long term disability policies, see the long term disability flyer.

Tax incentives

People with disabilities who work may qualify for special tax incentives, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and free tax preparation services. See the Work Incentives Connection's tax incentives fact sheet.

Programs for people with HIV/AIDS

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) operates special health and nutrition programs for people with HIV/AIDS. See the HIV/AIDS section of the DHS website for general information.

Fact Sheets

General Social Security Fact Sheets:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

What if you get SSI AND SSDI? Call the connection.

Healthcare

Other good things to know: