“IMPOSSIBLE!” you say, “You can’t get Social Security disability benefits while WORKING!”
And as a general rule, that’s true. If you are working at a substantial gainful activity (SGA) level, you are normally not eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, 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 SGA threshold, and thereby preserve eligibility for disability benefits.
One more time and simpler: if you are spending money on things that allow you to work, you can subtract those from your earnings and that may let you qualify for Social Security disability.
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):
|TYPE OF EXPENSE||IRWE DEDUCTIBLE||NOT DEDUCTIBLE|
|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:
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:
||Drugs and/or medical services used for your minor physical or mental health problems, for example:
|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:
|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.