One of the primary differences between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is that SSI is needs-based. This means that any increase in your income, temporary or not, can reduce the amount of money that you will receive from Social Security.
What types of income can reduce my benefits?
- Any wages you earn,
- Any self-employment income,
- Other earnings such as Gambling winnings (including the lottery), inheritances or settlements from lawsuits.
It is always important to report any income you receive to Social Security, even if it isn’t wages. A recent case involving a disabled 58-year-old man from Arkansas illustrates the impact of this rule. According to The Dallas Morning News, John Dodds won $1,000 through a scratch-off lottery ticket in early December, 2009. Dodds receives $674 per month from SSI, which he uses to pay for rent, utilities, and other living expenses. Dodds took filed an unearned income statement to declare the money to SSA. On the day after Christmas, Dodds received a letter from SSA informing him that his SSI for 2010 would be reduced by $980.
How are my benefits reduced if I return to work?
If you are working, the first $65 ($85 if you have no other income in a month) of earnings in a month are disregarded.
After that, SSA reduces your benefits $1 for every $2 you earn in a month. They also deduct from the monthly earnings any monthly expenses that you have, which allow you to work — such as a special handicapped accessible van that allows you to get to work.
One of the biggest concerns SSI recipients have about going to work is the possibility of losing Medicaid coverage. If you return to work, your SSI payments may be reduced or stopped, but you may be able to keep your Medicaid coverage. Contact Social Security for details about your situation if you are on SSI and considering returning to work.