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SSI what if I go back to work?

Claimants will qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if the SSA decides they were aged, disabled or blind, they have very limited income and resources, and they were unable to work for at least 12 continuous months.

Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “I was approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits last year. I have been feeling a bit better now, and I think I could do some part-time work. I do not, however, want to work so much that my entire SSI benefit gets cancelled or I lose my Medicaid benefits. Do you have any advice?”


Steps to take before returning to part-time work

All SSI recipients who intend to return to work should first contact the SSA and discuss their options. The SSA encourages anyone who can work to work, but it’s important to fully understand how work can impact your SSI payments.

Although the SSA will give you detailed information about your benefits, we can also provide some general information.

Understanding SSI benefit payments

Your SSI benefit is based on the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR), which in 2016 is $733. States may also add additional state supplemental payments to the FBR. Now, if you return to work, the SSA will determine your countable income each month, and subtract that from the Federal Benefit Rate and pay you the difference. If your countable income is more than the Federal Benefit Rate, your SSI benefit will not be paid.

Unfortunately, determining your countable income can be a bit tricky (this is where it benefits you to talk to the SSA). In general, your countable income will include any wages which are paid to you (which are not excluded by the SSA), the value of food, shelter, and support payments which someone provides to you, and payments from other sources, such as unemployment benefits.

Lowering your countable income

Now, there are certain impairment related work expenses which can be deducted from your income to reduce your countable income. For example, if you need special equipment to complete your job or you have to pay someone to take you to your job, these costs can be deducted from your countable income. The more expenses you report and have deducted, the more SSI benefit you can retain.

For a full list of expenses which may be deducted you can visit

What if I cannot continue to work?

As mentioned before, if you earn too much money, the SSA will subtract your countable income from the Federal Benefit Rate and your SSI benefits will stop. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for claimants to return to work for a short period of time only to decide they cannot continue to work.

The good news is that under certain conditions, you may be able to have your SSI benefit reinstated.

For example, if your benefits stopped because your wages were too high, you have stopped working at an SGA level (substantial gainful activity) when you seek reinstatement, you cannot work SGA due to your disability, it has been less than five years from the date of the benefit termination, and your disability is the same as the initial disability for which you were approved, you can request an expedited reinstatement of your SSI benefits.

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