New Ruling for Impairment Related Work Expenses

man in wheelchair sitting with a group of people

In 2021, a person can work for pay while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and earn up to $1,310 a month, or $2,190 a month if blind, after deduction of his or her impairment-related work expenses (IRWEs). Disabled people are allowed to deduct all their impairment-related work expenses when reporting their income. People receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can also benefit from the deduction of IRWEs.

How IRWEs Work

Impairment-related work expenses are the expenses that people incur for the disability-related products or services that enable them to work with their impairment. The costs incurred to cover IRWEs are not counted against people when determining if they are gainfully employed for SSDI purposes.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will deduct a person’s impairment-related work expenses from his or her gross income. If the deduction makes a person’s income fall within the income limits for SSDI ($1,310 per month if non-blind and $2,190 per month if blind in 2021), he or she can still be eligible for disability benefits.

SSI recipients can deduct IRWEs from the amount of earnings used to figure the SSI benefit they should receive. IRWEs help keep the recipients eligible for SSI benefits and increase the SSI benefits they receive, as the SSA does not count all of a person’s earnings when calculating his or her countable income. In 2021, SSI beneficiaries who have income from work only cannot earn more than $1,673 per month.

What Is Considered an IRWE?

For an item or service to count as an IRWE, it should meet the following requirements:

  • It is needed for a person to be able to perform his or her work
  • The person needs it because of mental or physical impairment
  • No portion of the cost is covered by another source, such as private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid
  • The expense should be reasonable, meaning what one pays for the service or product is typical for the area where he or she lives

Nearly everything that can be shown as necessary for getting someone to and from work or functioning at work can qualify as an IRWE. Items or services that are used both at work and outside of work can be considered IRWEs, such as a wheelchair and hearing aids. Other examples of IRWEs include home modifications necessary for one to leave his or her home for work, additional transportation costs due to a disabling condition, medical devices and services, attendant services, and service animals.

Social Security Disability

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