Benefits from SSA for People with Disabilities

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The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

Social Security Disability Insurance or Title II, Disability Benefits SSDI: pays benefits to people with disabilities and certain members of your family if the beneficiary is “insured,” meaning that he/she worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Supplemental Security Income SSI pays benefits to people with disabilities based on financial need.

Comparison of SSI and Title II Disability Benefits


  • Welfare program funded by federal tax dollars, not SSA trust fund
  • Limits on earned income, unearned income & resources
  • Comes with Medicaid

Title II Disability or SSDI

  • Entitlement program based upon insured status funded by SSA trust fund (SSDI, CDB, DWB)
  • No limits on unearned income or resources – just earned income
  • Comes with Medicare


Types of Benefits

Retired worker and auxiliary beneficiaries: Payment for these benefits is made from the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund.

  • Retired worker—beneficiary who worked in covered employment long enough to be insured and who is at least 62 years old (benefits equal to the “primary insurance amount” are payable at the normal retirement age; maximum benefits are payable at age 70)
  • Spouse of retired worker—must either (1) have a child under age 16 or a disabled child in his or her care, or (2) be at least 62 years old; applies also to divorced spouse if the marriage lasted at least 10 years
  • Child of retired worker—see 3 types of child benefits below

Survivor beneficiaries Payment for these benefits is also made from the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund.

  • Child of deceased worker—see 3 types of child benefits below
  • Aged widow(er)—must be at least 60 years old
  • Young widow(er)—must have a child under age 16 or a disabled child in his or her care
  • Disabled widow(er) DWB—must be disabled and be at least 50 years old (converted to aged widow(er) upon attainment of age 65)
  • Parent of deceased worker—must have been dependent on worker and be at least 62 years old

Disabled worker and auxiliary beneficiaries:  Benefits are paid from the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

  • Disabled worker—beneficiary who worked in covered employment long enough to be insured and who had been working recently in covered employment prior to disability onset
  • Spouse of disabled worker—must either (1) have a child under age 16 or a disabled child in his or her care, or (2) be at least 62 years old; applies also to divorced spouse if the marriage lasted at least 10 years
  • Child of disabled worker—see 3 types of child benefits below

  Types of children:

  • Minor child (under age 18)
  • Adult disabled before the age of 22
  • High school student under age 19




What is a Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC) or benefits planner?


By: Lesly Lopez

If you receive Social Security benefits and you have a job or are looking for one, there are specially trained professionals known as Community Work Incentive Coordinators (CWIC) to help you make sense of complex employment and benefit-related issues.

What is a CWIC?

A highly skilled and rigorously trained cadre of Community Work Incentives Coordinators (CWICs) provide individual counseling to beneficiaries seeking employment and intensive follow-up services to ensure that they are using the work incentives appropriately. CWICS provide confidential services to people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). CWICs educate beneficiaries on how employment will affect their public benefits such as SSI, SSDI, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidized housing and food stamps.
CWICs are funded through the Social Security Administration grant called WIPA, Work Incentives Planning and Assistance. CWICs are not SSA employees. However, they do serve SSI and SSDI beneficiaries, including young adults who are transitioning from school to work.

What a CWIC can do for you?

• Help you understand how working and earning wages will affect your public benefits
• Provide ongoing assistance to help you manage your benefits as you transition into employment or increase your earnings
• Provide information on available education, training, and employment services
• Help develop and implement PASS Plans and other Work Incentives that assist you to achieve your employment goal
• Understand the rules of specific Work Incentives and how they apply to you
• Decide whether the Ticket to Work program is right for you
• Understand the potential benefits of employment as a person who receives disability benefits from Social Security while dispelling the myths about working
• Analyze how work and earnings may impact your Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), health care, and other public benefits
• Understand the services provided by a State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency or an Employment Network (EN), and how they might fit best with your needs
• Teach about the work incentives from SSA to beneficiaries and community partners.
• enhance self-sufficiency
• ensure informed choices,
• get rid of fear in pursuing employment
• problem solving and advocacy,
• benefits analysis and advisement/benefits support, planning/benefits management and
• Information and referral about other resources available to you in the community.

For additional questions please call the TTW help line at 1-866-968-7842 / 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday from 8:00AM – 8:00PM EST. For general inquiries, you may e-mail

What information am I supposed to report to Social Security?


By: Lesly Lopez


The answer depends on the type of benefits you receive. The SSI program involves a lot more reporting than the Social Security Title II disability programs like SSDI because the SSI program has strict rules about how much income and resources beneficiaries can have. Below is a chart that provides general direction about what beneficiaries need to report to Social Security. Keep in mind that for the SSI program, these reporting requirements apply not only to the SSI eligible individual, but also to the parents of SSI recipients under 18 and to the spouses of SSI eligible individuals.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Title II Disability Programs(SSDI, CDB, DWB)
1. Unearned income including things like other Social Security payments, child support payments, or any other cash received that is not earned income.

2. Any gross wages/earnings and net earnings from self-employment. This includes in-kind items received in lieu of wages (like room and board).

3. In-kind support and maintenance received from others. This includes any assistance with food and shelter provided by another person.

4. Change of address.

5. Changes in living arrangements.

6. Changes in marital status.

7. Resources or assets received that cause

8. Use of any specific work incentives.

1. Any gross wages/earnings and net earnings from self-employment. This includes in-kind items received in lieu of wages (like room and board).

2. Changes in marital status (only applies to CDB and DWB – not SSDI).

3. Change of address.

4. Receipt of any public disability benefits such as Worker’s Compensation.

5. Use of any specific work incentives.

** Unearned income and resources are not considered by the Title II disability programs, thus are not required to be reported to Social Security.

Theoretically, there are many ways to report information to Social Security, but some methods are more reliable than others. Tips for reporting relevant information include:

  1. SSI recipients may report earned income using a special toll free line by calling 1-866-772-0953. Wages can be reported using this method any day during the current month, but report during the first 6 days of each month to prevent improper payment of SSI benefits. If you miss reporting wages during the first 6 days of the month, you can report the wages directly to your local Social Security office. You cannot use this line to report anything except wages and if you use work incentives such as Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs), you cannot use the Telephone Wage Reporting System.
  2. SSI Recipients may also use a new mobile application for monthly wage reporting. The SSI Mobile Wage Reporting (SSIMWR) application can be downloaded and installed free on an Apple or Android mobile device. It works the same as the telephone reporting system, except the individual submits wage data by entering it on the application screens instead of using the phone. Always follow-up phone or mobile application reporting with written wage information sent to the local Social Security Field Office. While the automated wage reporting system is a convenient way for some SSI recipients to report wages, it is still important to provide written verification of wages.
  3. SSI recipients who need to report something other than wages, or who use work incentives, have to report their information directly to the local Social Security Field Office. You may submit the information in writing through the mail or visit the Field Office in person.
  4. Title II disability beneficiaries (SSDI, CDB, DWB) should NOT report any essential information by phone, but rather should either mail written information to the local Field Office, or visit the local Field Office in person.
  5. Keep a copy of all correspondence you send to or receive from Social Security!
  6. When reporting employment initially, or employment changes, always send a letter describing the critical information Social Security needs. This includes: Your name, address, phone number and Social Security Number, Type of Social Security benefits you are receiving,  Name, address and phone number of employing company, Name of direct supervisor, Date of hire/date of termination, Pay rate and average number of hours worked per week, Pay dates, Job title.
  7. After the initial letter reporting employment or an employment change, keep all of your pay stubs. Local Social Security Field Offices vary in terms of how frequently they want you to mail in your pay stubs to verify your earnings. Check with your Claims Representative BEFORE you start mailing in pays stubs. Be sure to keep a copy of the pay stubs before you mail them in!
  8. SSI recipients generally have to report earnings more frequently than Title II beneficiaries. SSI recipients should submit their pay stubs to the local Social Security office by the 10th day of the month after the month in which the wages were paid. Some Field Offices may ask you to mail pay stubs less often. If you don’t report each month, make sure your estimated earnings are correct so you will not be overpaid.
  1. Do Not assume that the check you receive from Social Security is correct and has had wages accounted for. You need to know what your check should be and watch to make sure adjustments are made.


  1. If you receive both SSI and a Title II disability benefit, make sure both programs are aware that you are working. Your report of earnings receipt should indicate both benefits. If your receipt does not mention both benefits, contact your local office immediately.


  1. If you are getting checks or direct deposits that you think you may not entitled to – do NOT spend them! Deposit them in the bank while you work with Social Security to get the record updated.
  1. If you are self-employed, you need to report that to Social Security – even if you are not making a profit. Be sure to file your taxes promptly with the IRS and send a copy of your tax returns to Social Security. Get assistance from your local WIPA project to make sure you are keeping proper records.
  1. Keep receipts for all of the specific work incentives you are claiming. SSI recipients should submit receipts during the annual redetermination. Title II beneficiaries should submit receipts when a work CDR is being conducted.


What information am I supposed to report to Social Security? (2015, July 9) retrieve from

What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) according to the Social Security Administration?


By: Lesly Lopez


To be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to head shot of Lesly Quin engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment-related work expenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals; Federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts generally change with changes in the national average wage index.

Amounts for 2015
The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2015 is $1820. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2015 is $1090.

Social Security Definition of Disability:

To meet our definition of disability, you must not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment(s):

  • That is expected to result in death, or
  • That has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

We use the term “substantial gainful activity” to describe a level of work activity and earnings.

Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both. For work activity to be substantial, it does not need to be performed on a full-time basis. Work activity performed on a part-time basis may also be SGA.

“Gainful” work activity is:

  • Work performed for pay or profit; or
  • Work of a nature generally performed for pay or profit; or
  • Work intended for profit, whether or not a profit is realized.

We use SGA as one of the factors to decide if you are eligible for disability benefits. If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, we use SGA to decide if your eligibility for benefits continues after you return to work and complete your Trial Work Period


2014 Disability Policy Seminar


On April 7-9, 2014, I had the privilege to attend the 2014 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. and participate in advocacy efforts to make an impact on disability policy. The Disability Policy Seminar is an event that brings together advocates for individuals with disabilities with public policy experts and focuses on major federal issues and pending legislation that affect the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. The seminar provided me the opportunity to network with other advocates from around the country and share experiences about barriers that people with disabilities are facing throughout the country, as well as collaborate on ideas for solutions. Through the in-depth sessions, I learned about the federal policies, provisions, and pending legislation important to people with disabilities, including proposals related to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and SSI that may have effects on federal disability funding, housing, community living, education and employment, and services for individuals with disabilities. (click here to read more)