Other Work Incentives

To participate in the Ticket to Work program, you have to be getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Each of those programs has additional incentives to support you if you want to work.

There are also work incentives as part of Medicare and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) that will help you keep your health care coverage as you work.

Here is a quick overview of all of those incentives, but you can read about them in more detail in the DB101 article, Work Incentives.

SSDI Work Incentives

If you’re getting SSDI, it’s because your disability prevents you from going to work and earning enough to cover your expenses. However, you may want to give work a chance. It is possible that maybe if you just had a bit of time and knew that you wouldn’t lose your benefits, you could succeed at a job.

That’s why Social Security has made program rules and incentives that can help you get a job without having to worry that you’ll lose the benefits you need.

SSDI’s work incentives function like a 3-stage process that begins when you get a job:

  1. The Trial Work Period lets you work and get benefits at the same time no matter how much you make. This period continues until you’ve made more than the Trial Work Month limit in 9 different months during a 5-year period. The exact limit changes each year; in 2019, the limit is $880.
  2. When the Trial Work Period ends, the 3-year Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) lets you work and get benefits for every month that you earn less than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) ($1,220 in 2019, $2,040 if you’re blind).
  3. For the first 5 years after your EPE ends, Expedited Reinstatement allows you, if your income drops below SGA, to quickly get back on SSDI without having to completely re-apply.

These 3 incentives mean that you can get a job and see how it goes. If it goes well, you’ll be in a better financial situation than before. If it doesn’t go well, you will be able to get SSDI and be in the same situation as you were before you tried out working.

These 3 rules, combined with the fact that you will not have to do a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) while you’re in the Ticket program, mean that you can safely try out working without risking your SSDI benefits.

To learn more about SSDI, read DB101’s SSDI article.

SSI Work Incentives

Most people on SSI who go to work end up better off financially. Even though their SSI benefits may go down, their total income from SSI and wages will almost always be higher.

When you earn income, only part of the money you earn will be counted when SSI adjusts your monthly cash benefits. The SSI program does not count the first $65 you earn each month, and they only count about one-half of the rest. This means that a little less than half of your earnings will be counted when Social Security figures out your SSI payment.

Even if you earn enough money that your SSI benefits amount goes to zero, you’re not “out” of the SSI program. People who no longer get SSI cash benefits often can keep their health coverage through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), thanks to rules like SSI 1619(b) and programs like AHCCCS Freedom to Work.

If you lose your job or your income drops for another reason, you can have your SSI benefits restarted easily thanks to Expedited Reinstatement (EXR), as long as it is within 5 years of the last time you got an SSI check.

There are also various other rules that can help you if you’re on SSI and get a job:

  • Social Security will recognize money you spend on some things you need for your job as Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs) or Blind Work Expenses (BWEs). These expenses are subtracted from your countable income. That means your SSI benefits will be reduced less when you get a job.
  • Plans to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) let you save up money that you make at your job. With a PASS, you can save more than the usual SSI resource limit ($2,000 if you’re single, $3,000 for couples). Any money you save in a PASS also won’t be counted by Social Security as income, so your SSI benefits won’t be reduced.
  • The Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) lets students under the age of 22 make more money without having their SSI benefits reduced.

These rules, combined with the fact that you will not have to do a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) while you’re in the Ticket program, mean that you can safely try out working without risking losing your benefits if you need them.

To learn more about SSI, read DB101’s SSI article.

Health Care and Work Incentives

Medicare

If you’re on SSDI and Medicare, you will keep getting Medicare while you complete the full 9 months of your Trial Work Period (TWP). Assuming you still have a medical disability after your Trial Work Period ends, you then get at least 93 more months (almost 8 years) of free Medicare Part A coverage. Since the Ticket to Work program means you won’t have to do a Continuing Disability Review, you won’t lose your medical disability status and will be able to keep Medicare coverage that entire time.

When you can no longer get free Medicare Part A, you can choose to pay to keep getting it until you reach age 65, as long as you continue to meet the Social Security medical rules for disability.

To learn more about Medicare, read DB101’s Medicare article.

Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS)

If you’ve been on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) and you earn enough money that you’re no longer eligible for SSI, you may become eligible for SSI's 1619(b) provision.

1619(b) means that if your monthly SSI cash benefits end because your wages are too high, you can still get your AHCCCS health coverage as long as you don’t earn more than $36,819.

To get AHCCCS coverage through 1619(b), your resources must also stay below SSI’s resource limit, which is $2,000 for a single person or $3,000 for a couple.

To learn more about AHCCCS, read DB101’s AHCCCS article.

AHCCCS Freedom to Work

If you don’t qualify for 1619(b), you may be able to qualify for AHCCCS Freedom to Work.

To qualify, you must be:

Note that when AHCCCS looks at your income, they only count about half of it toward their income limit. So, you might be able to qualify for this program, even if you’re making $4,000 per month or more.

People in the program pay a monthly premium for their coverage. The premium is based on their income. The maximum monthly premium is $35.

To see if you might qualify for AHCCCS Freedom to Work and what your estimated premium would be, use the DB101's AHCCCS Freedom to Work Estimator. For more details on the program, read DB101’s AHCCCS Freedom to Work article.