Skip to main content

Work Incentives: Overview

There are a number of myths and misconceptions about returning to work after disability benefits begin. Work can be an important part of the recovery process and SOAR can assist in this effort.

Encouraging Employment

When Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits begin, lifelong employment goals do not end. Illness may interfere with the ability to maintain employment, but this may not be permanent.

In the spirit of SOAR as a stepping stone to recovery, people who receive SSI/SSDI should be encouraged to seek employment and employment services throughout the application process and after benefits are obtained. The challenge is to maintain hope that employment is possible and worth the effort, especially after so much time and energy has been expended to obtain SSI/SSDI. A solid, working knowledge of these supports and programs can help promote the idea of employment to people who may be fearful of losing hard-won benefits. SOAR case managers should work closely with SSA Work Incentive Coordinators when assisting applicants returning to work.

Return to Work Myths

There are many myths surrounding SSI/SSDI and employment, including:

  • MYTH: Benefits end immediately when returning to work
  • MYTH: Beneficiaries can only work 20 hours per week while receiving disability
  • MYTH: Health insurance ends immediately when returning to work
  • MYTH: If SSA knows a beneficiary is working, they will say he/she is not disabled

Dispelling Myths

  • Many old myths have survived for decades and new myths keep evolving
  • People from all walks of life have helped to create and perpetuate myths about employment and SSI/SSDI
  • It is always best to check with SSA to ensure that the information the case manager provides is correct
  • Misinformation can reduce the likelihood that a person will attempt to return to work
    • By creating unnecessary fear in the SSI/SSDI beneficiary
    • By creating unnecessary concern in front-line staff assisting with this transition

The Importance of Work

Employment is not solely about income, although it is certainly a key factor. Employment has additional benefits, it can:

  • Define a role for the person in the community
  • Help develop self-worth (self-esteem, confidence, problem solving, pride in a job well-done)
  • Foster a connection to others through working for a shared task or cause
  • Add structure and organize time and space
  • Create purpose by offering a consistent framework of goals and expectations
  • Help improve standard of living through increased income

SSA Assistance

Ticket to Work (TTW)

TTW is designed to help beneficiaries maintain their benefits while exploring employment.

Work Incentives

Work Incentives are additional SSA rules that allow SSI/SSDI beneficiaries to maintain their healthcare and cash benefits while working.

  • The programs are different for SSI and SSDI
  • SSI benefit amounts can change with earnings from work
  • SSDI beneficiaries are either eligible or not for their full check; there are no partial benefits
  • Reporting work and earnings to SSA is required
SSI & SSDI Work Incentive Programs

Work Incentive*



Income Exclusions

Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

Continued Medicaid Eligibility  
Trial Work Period (TWP)


Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)



Continuation of Medicare Coverage  
Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWEs)
Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits (EXR)

*See the Social Security Administration's Red Book for a full list of SSA Work Incentives