Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

Social Security’s PASS program lets you save money you get from sources such as work or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) without lowering your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly cash benefits. Usually, if you have other income, your SSI benefit goes down, but with a PASS, you can have more income, not have your SSI go down, and be able to save up more money than SSI's resource limit usually allows.

If you are on SSI or SSDI, you probably have to spend a lot of your monthly income on basic expenses like food and housing. This can make it hard to save for things like job training or school. The PASS program helps make saving easier. It lets you save money for a work-related goal that will help you achieve self-sufficiency. It is easy to use because it protects your income while you save.

You can use a PASS to:

  • Help pay for the cost of school or training
  • Start a business
  • Pay for equipment, support services, and other expenses related to your goal

One of the things that make PASS unique is that it is completely consumer-driven. The PASS plan is about your work goal, what you want to achieve, and what you need to get there.

After you write your PASS, you ask Social Security to approve it. Your plan has to have a realistic goal given your abilities, experience, and educational background.

To set up a PASS, you must:
  • Be on SSI or become eligible for the SSI program as a result of an approved PASS application.
  • Have a source of income other than SSI (for example, SSDI cash benefits or wages from a job), or have assets over $2,000 that you can use to fund your PASS plan. (If you are not eligible for SSI because of the limit on assets, you may be able to move those assets into a PASS and become eligible.)
  • Have a work goal that will help you earn enough money to lower your Social Security disability benefits, or get off benefits altogether.
  • Be able to write down a plan that shows how saving a certain amount of money will let you reach your work goal. A Social Security PASS specialist can help you write your PASS plan.
  • Be under age 65. You may be able to set up a PASS if you are 65 or older, if you were receiving an SSI cash benefit based on disability or blindness in the month before your 65th birthday.

If you already go to college or have a job, you may be able to set up a PASS to help pay for your current work, school, or health expenses.

Income Sources for Funding a PASS

Once you have an approved PASS plan, you will put money into your PASS account to pay for each step along the way to reaching your goal.

You cannot put any money you get from SSI in your PASS account. You must use money from some other source such as income from a job, money from a spouse or parent, or money from your SSDI check.

Applying to the PASS Program

There is a detailed description of how to set up a PASS in the DB101 PASS section. You have to fill out Social Security’s PASS application form. On the application you will describe your goals for work and how you plan to achieve them.

This description should be detailed enough to convince Social Security that:

  • You have a clear plan
  • The plan is something you can realistically do, and
  • If you completed the plan your need for SSI or SSDI would be lowered or eliminated.

Creating a PASS requires that you have a work goal and an explanation of how you will be able to accomplish this goal. If you currently do not have a clear work goal or a clear way to achieve it, you may consider working with an organization like the Arizona Rehabilitation Services office or an Employment Network through the Arizona Ticket to Work program.

Application Assistance

Creating your plan and filling out a PASS application can seem intimidating, but you can get help with every step of the process by talking with someone from a PASS Cadre. A PASS Cadre is a professional who knows about the program and is available to help you take advantage of it. Work Incentive Consultants can also assist you with your PASS application or help you submit the correct records to your PASS Cadre. Here’s the contact information:

  • You can find a PASS specialist through the San Diego PASS Cadre (which covers Arizona) at 1-855-820-0097 ext 24059 or 24060.
  • Arizona Benefits 2 Work is managed by the Ability360. You can find Work Incentive Consultant information on their website or call them at 602-443-0720, toll free at 866-304-WORK (9675).

Using a PASS

After your plan is approved, Social Security will send you detailed instructions about how to use your PASS. The instructions are mostly about keeping PASS funds and expenses separate from your other money and keeping good records. You have to follow the rules carefully. To learn more, see the DB101 Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) article.

If a medical situation or some other issue comes up that impacts your ability to continue your PASS, talk to your PASS Cadre about your options. In many cases, you will be allowed to put your PASS on hold for up to 12 months without having to re-apply.

Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program helps people with low income have affordable housing. It is funded by the federal government and run by local public housing authorities (PHAs).

A family that gets Section 8 benefits pays 30% of the family income for rent. The Section 8 program pays for the rest of the rent. After a family's income goes up, the amount the family has to contribute to rent also goes up, because 30% of their income is more than it used to be. When the family contributes more for rent, the Section 8 program contributes less. Note: Families that include a person with a disability who works may qualify for the Earned Income Disregard and not have to pay more rent.

Section 8's Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program helps families whose income goes up. When the family income goes up and the Section 8 program starts paying less for rent, the Section 8 program takes the money that it saves on rent and sets it aside for the family. The family can use these savings for purchases, such as the down payment on a home or a car.

Learn more about the FSS. Find public housing authorities near you.

Example

Clyde and Bertha live with their two children and have $500 in monthly income. Due to their low income, they qualify for the Section 8 program. With Section 8, they pay just $150/month in rent (30% of $500), even though their apartment costs $1,000/month. Section 8 pays the remaining $850/month.

Bertha starts doing some childcare work and the family income goes up to $1,000 each month. Now, they have to pay $300/month as rent (30% of $1,000), while Section 8 pays the remaining $700/month for the family's apartment, $150 less per month than the program used to pay.

Because the family is part of the FSS program, the PHA that administers Clyde and Bertha's Section 8 benefits takes that $150 each month and sets it aside for the family. A year later, there is $1,800, which Bertha can use to make the down payment on a car.