More information about Impairment Related Work Expenses IRWEs!

As discussed previously, impairment related work expenses (IRWEs for short — pronounced “Eer-whee’s”) are a way of reducing an individual’s earnings below the substantial gainful activity threshold, and thereby preserve eligibility for disability benefits.

Social Security has a great chart showing examples of which IRWEs are deductible (can be used to reduce income) and which are non-deductible (cannot be used to reduce income):

Transportation Costs The cost of structural or operational modifications to your vehicle that you need in order to travel to work, even if you also use the vehicle for non-work purposes.

The cost of driver assistance or taxicabs that is required because of your disability rather than the lack of public transportation.

Mileage expenses at a rate determined by us for an approved vehicle and limited to travel to and from employment.

The cost of your vehicle whether modified or not.

The costs of modifications to your vehicle that are not directly related to your impairment or critical to the operation of your vehicle, for example, paint or pin striping.

Your travel expenses related to obtaining medical items or services.

Attendant Care Services Services performed in the work setting.

Services performed to help you prepare for work, the trip to and from work, and after work; for example, bathing, dressing, cooking, and eating.

Services that incidentally also benefit your family, for example, meals shared by you and your family.

Services performed by your family member for a cash fee where he/she suffers an economic loss by reducing or ending his/her work in order to help you. This includes your spouse reducing work hours to help you get ready for work.

Services performed on non-workdays or help with shopping or general housekeeping, for example, cleaning and laundry.

Services performed for someone else in your family, for example, babysitting.

Services performed by your family member for payment “in-kind”, for example, room and board.

Services performed by your family member for a cash fee where he/she suffers no economic loss. This includes services provided by your non-working spouse.

Medical Devices Deductible devices include wheelchairs, dialysis equipment, pacemakers, respirators, traction equipment, and braces. Any device you do not use for a medical purpose.
Prosthesis Artificial hip, artificial replacement of an arm, leg, or other parts of the body. Any prosthetic device that is primarily for cosmetic purpose.
Residential Modifications If you are employed outside of home, modifications to the exterior of your house that permit access to the street or to transportation; for example:

  • Exterior ramps
  • Railings
  • Pathways

If you are self-employed at home,modifications made inside your home in order to create a workspace to accommodate your impairment. This includes enlarging a doorway into an office or workroom and/or modifying office space to accommodate your dexterity challenges

If you are employed outside of home, modifications to the interior of your house.

If you are self-employed at home, you cannot deduct any modification-related expenses that will be deducted as a business expense when determining SGA.

Routine Drugs & Routine Medical Services Regularly prescribed medical treatment or therapy that is necessary to control your disabling condition, even if control is not achieved. This includes:

  • Anti-convulsant drugs
  • Blood level monitoring
  • Radiation treatment
  • Chemotherapy
  • Corrective surgery for spinal disorders
  • Anti-depressant medication
  • Your physician’s fee relating to these services.
Drugs and/or medical services used for your minor physical or mental health problems, for example:

  • Routine physical examinations
  • Allergy treatments
  • Dental examinations
  • Optician services
Diagnostic Procedures Procedures related to the control, treatment, or evaluation of your disabling condition; for example, brain scans, and electroencephalograms. Procedures not related to your disabling condition, for example, allergy testing.
Non-Medical Appliances & Devices In unusual circumstances, devices or appliances that are essential for the control of your disabling condition either at home or at work; for example, an electric air cleaner if you have severe respiratory disease. Your physician must verify this need. Devices you use at home or at the office that are not ordinarily for medical purposes and for which your doctor has not verified a medical work-related need. These include:

  • Portable room heaters
  • Air conditioners
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Humidifiers
Other Items & Services Expendable medical supplies; for example, incontinence pads, elastic stockings, and catheters.

The cost of a service animal including food, licenses, and veterinary services.

An exercise bicycle or other device you use for physical fitness, unless verified as necessary by your physician.

Health insurance premiums.

Keep in mind that these are just examples and not an exhaustive list of allowable IRWEs.

For more information, check out the Social Security Red Book.