Social Security impairment related work expenses EXPLAINED!

If your work is performed at a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level you may be denied Social Security disability benefits.  However, you may be able to reduce the amount Social Security considers to bring your gross income below SGA levels.

One way to do this is through Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs). Here is what Social Security describes IRWEs:

An IRWE means an expense for an item or service which is directly related to enabling an impaired individual to work and which is necessarily incurred by that individual because of a physical or mental impairment. Such an expense may involve payment for the purchase, installation, maintenance and repair of an impairment-related item or payment for an impairment-related service. Any medically necessary expenses related to your impairment which are necessary to allow you to work are deducted from your gross income.

If you are disabled, but some type of medical care or service allows you to be able to work, the cost of that care or services may be deducted from your gross income.

This might make you eligible to continue receiving Social Security benefits even though you are working, and your work is a substantial gainful activity (SGA).

One critical element of IRWEs is that you, the disabled individual, have to be paying for the medical care or service.  If insurance or another person is paying for the care, Social Security will not deduct it from your gross income as IRWE.

Here are some examples of IRWEs:

  1. Routine drugs and routine medical services.
  2. Some diagnostic procedures.
  3. Attendant care services.
  4. Medical devices.
  5. Prosthesis.
  6. Other equipment.
  7. Guide dogs.

For many people, the most relevant potential IRWE will be “routine drugs and medical services.”  Here is what Social Security says about this:

The costs of routine drugs and routine medical services are not deductible unless the drugs or services are necessary to control the disabling condition so as to enable the individual to work. The amount of IRWE that may be deducted is subject to reasonable limits, and deductions for needed items and services will be made only if the cost is paid by the impaired individual.

In short, the reasonable cost of medications can be deducted from your gross income if the medications are necessary, they enable you to work, and you pay for the medications.

There are a lot of limits on IRWEs and this is only a brief overview.  For more information check out Social Security Ruling 84-26 and 20 CRF 404.1576.