Benefits Training

and Consulting


January 25, 2011


Questions I am Asked


For me, learning more about Social Security benefit programs always comes when I have to research Social Security’s material to answer questions people ask.  Most people have the same experience.  Let me know if you have a question about the benefit programs, or a problem.


I was at your training in Ventura last year where, among other things, you were talking about how much money a SSDI beneficiary can make over the $1000/month limit. I understand that the $1k is after deducting any costs related to the disability, such as medication co-payments.

I am wondering, can the Medicare premiums for Part B and D that are being deducted from my SSDI check be included in the Disability-related medical costs? Can I add that amount to the $1k I am allowed to make each month?

Health insurance premiums are not an Impairment-related Work Expense (IRWE). The operating procedures were changed in 2005 and expressly prohibit premiums as an expense.  The expense must be related to a specific disability and is required to enable the beneficiary to work.  A premium payment is too generic to be an IRWE.


I have a client who wants to apply for disability. We attempted the on line application and it was not accepted because she is still able to work part time. Does she need to stop work to qualify? In my mind I do not think so. I have planned a trip to the local SSA office to help facilitate her application She does have a disabling condition(psychiatric) which impacts on how much she may be able to work.


Someday, the online application may be updated to correct this problem.  Federal law does not require a person to be out of work, to apply for benefits.  The correct question is: Is the person unable to perform Substantial Gainful Activity because of the medical condition (meaning the monthly accountable earned income is less than $1,000 per month).   As I have said in the workshops, the challenge is to show the impairment inhibits the ability to earn more money, as opposed to choosing to work part-time.  Social Security is well aware of inappropriate guidance provided to human service professionals (i.e. “you can only work 15 hours a week”).


Regarding “impairment-related work expenses,” we have several entrepreneurs who sell books on Amazon but because they cannot ship the books themselves they out-source it to a program called Fulfillment by Amazon in which Amazon stores, wraps and ships the entrepreneurs’ books for them for a service/subscription fee. The entrepreneurs also cannot reprice 100s of titles by themselves so they out-source that to for a monthly service fee. They also out-source the bulk shipment of books to UPS for pickup because they cannot go to the post office themselves. Can these be considered “impairment-related work expenses” or are they just normal business expenses?


An item or services can not be claimed as a business expense and an impairment-related work expense concurrently.  So the person has to chose which has the best advantage to them.  In this instance, the services would probably be better claimed as a business expense, because Social Security counts net earned income after business expenses are deducted. 


In a question of what SSI considers a business asset, we have entrepreneurs buy barcode scanners and printers for their business, to keep their business accounts under the $2,000.00 (resources) threshold. Can the printer and scanners be considered by SSI business assets?


For self-employed SSI recipients, property used in the performance of the business services (in this case, barcode scanners and printers) would be “property essential to self-support” and the equity in these items is not a resource.  There is no dollar limit on the amount of items used in self-support.  For more detail review POMS - SI 01130.501 Essential Property Excluded Regardless of Value or Rate of Return, or


I know employer subsidy is available to people on SSDI, but is this available to someone on SSI who is returning to work? And if the person has a personal care attendant (paid by Medicaid) to help get them ready in the morning, could this count as a subsidy?


Subsidy, or the value of special supports, can be used in both programs when a person is applying for benefits and the gross earned income is over $1,000 per month.  After a person is found eligible for SSI, subsidy can not be used to reduce how much earned income Social Security counts in determining the monthly cash benefit.




State and Local Government Employees


I frequently receive inquiries from state and local government employees asking how their employer’s retirement plan will effect their entitlement to Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare.  There is no one answer to these questions, because agreements between states and local governments with Social Security may be different.


Social Security has a dedicated web page for state and local government employees (SLGE). [Click Here]  They should also read about the government pension offset (GPO) and the windfall elimination provision (WEP). [Click Here]



What’s Is Social Security’s Future


A question I’m often asked during a workshop is “Will Social Security be around when I retire?”  At the present time, the answer is yes.  The article below was published prior to the 2% reduction in withholding Social Security taxes from wages approved by Congress in the lame duck session of 2010.


“Social Security is currently running a planned surplus to address the retirement and disability needs of the baby boom generation.  According to the Social Security Trustees 2010 Report, the surplus will be at $2.6 trillion by the end of 2010 and is expected to grow to $4.2 trillion by the end of 2024. This projected shortfall is less than one percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Previous Trustee forecasts made a similar projection. In later years, when the surplus has been spent, Social Security will be able to pay reduced benefits from the taxes it collects. According to a July 2010 Congressional Budget Office Report, Social Security can pay full scheduled benefits until 2039; 80 percent of scheduled benefits in 2040; and 76 percent in 2084. Social Security will not be bankrupt: the program is not in crisis and no drastic changes are needed now.”






Final Rules Published on Dedicated Accounts

and Installment Payments


On Jan 5, 2011, Social Security published final rules regarding the establishment of dedicated accounts and installment payments for past-due SSI benefits.


When a child is determined eligible for SSI, s/he will typically be assigned a representative payee (often the person is a parent).  In most instances, after the application for benefits is filed, a period of time elapses before a favorable decision is made on the child’s eligibility (particularly in situations where a favorable decision was rendered after an appeal).   Thus, Social Security determines the child is eligible for past-due SSI cash benefits.   The final rules speak to how this money is distributed and instances where the money must be deposited into a dedicated account.


Installment payments - When Social Security determines the total amount of past-due SSI benefits they will deduct 1) any state interim cash assistance received for the child and payable to the state; 2) any representative fees (lawyer) applicable to the favorable determination of the child’s disability; or 3) previously due overpayment.  The remaining balance is the past-due amount eligible to the child.  If the remaining balance is equal to or greater than 3 times the SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) plus any state supplementary payment administered by Social Security, the moneys must be paid in three installments.  The installments are paid six months apart.  In other words, if the past-due amount is $3,000, which is more than 3 times $674 (the FBR), Social Security must establish  installment payments.   Each installment does not become a resource for 9 months. The first and second installments will not exceed 3 times the FBR.  There are two exceptions to installment payment requirements, lump sum payment will be made if: 1) the child is expected to die within 12 months; and 2) the child became ineligible for SSI benefits and are likely to remain ineligible for 12 months.


Dedicated Accounts - Congress passed several laws which addressed how large sums of money owed a child by Social Security must be used.   Social Security calls this a dedicated account.  The funds placed in a dedicated account can only be used for specific items or services required by the child and approved by Social Security.


When the past-due SSI cash benefit is equal to or exceed 6 times the SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) plus any state supplementary payment administered by SSI, Social Security must deposit this money into a dedicated account established by the representative payee and separate from the account the monthly cash benefit may be deposited into.  As in installment payment provision, the past-due amount to the child, is the amount remaining after the deduction of 1) any state interim cash assistance received for the child and payable to the state; or 2) any representative fees (lawyer) applicable to the favorable determination of the child’s disability.


Money held in the dedicated account is not a resource, nor the interest paid on the balance.  The funds in the dedicated account can only be used for items or services related to the child’s impairment and subject to Social Security approval.  The typical allowable expenditures include:

1.                    medical treatment;

2.                    education or job skills training;

3.                    personal aids to facilitate living and learning, such as assistive technology for communication and mobility, or

                modified instructional materials;

4.                    special foods for children with special dietary needs;

5.                    special clothes, such as orthopedic shoes or adult-size pants with snap-crotch for older, incontinent children;

6.                    increased electrical bills resulting from needed mechanical devices that must frequently run;

7.                    specialized day care and therapeutic recreation such as special summer camps or Special Olympics;

8.                    food and veterinary care for a guide dog or other assistive animal;

9.                    repair of walls, carpets or furnishings that have been damaged or worn by a disabled child;

10.                 counseling, crisis intervention services, respite care, and therapeutic foster care, if not covered by health

                insurance or public service program;

11.                 repayment of past debt, including self-reimbursement by a creditor payee, for those items or services that were

                related to the child's impairment and benefited the child;

12.                 household furnishings, appliances, and changes in utility services related to the child's disability such as air

                conditioning for an asthmatic child, a washing machine for an incontinent child, or installation and maintenance

                of a phone line to ensure ready access for a needed service;

13.                 And other expenses ( see POMS GN 00602.140 Permitted Expenditures from Dedicated Accounts)


Normally, basic maintenance costs (food, housing, clothing, and personal items) not related to the child's impairment and SSI overpayments may not be paid with dedicated account funds.”  And there emergency provisions which can apply, with Social Security’s approval.  For instance the child is in jeopardy of being homeless if the rent isn’t paid. 


If you want the review the final rule changes go to [click here]


If you want to review Social Security’s Program Operations Manual System provisions on dedicated accounts, send me an email, I can provide you with several links.




                         Social Security -- New Web Site Available

                                       for People with Disabilities

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CDD) has a new web site dedicated to information about the critical importance of the Social Security disability, survivor, and retirement insurance programs for people with disabilities and their families. Often people believe that Social Security is just a retirement program and do not realize its vital role as a social and family insurance program for people of all ages. The web site offers resources produced by the CCD Social Security Task Force regarding Social Security's impact on people with disabilities and provides information and links to other organizations. See:




Upcoming Workshops


For more information and registration go to my website [Click Here]



Feb. 14, 2011     San Diego, CA            Benefits and Employment in 2011

Feb. 15, 2011     Ontario, CA                Benefits and Employment in 2011

Feb. 16, 2011     Buena Park, CA         Benefits and Employment in 2011

Feb. 18, 2011     Camarillo, CA             Benefits and Employment in 2011

Feb. 22, 2011     Modesto, CA              Benefits and Employment in 2011

Feb. 23, 2011    Bakersfield, CA          Benefits and Employment in 2011

Feb. 24, 2011    Sacramento, CA          Benefits and Employment in 2011

Feb 25, 2011      Sacramento, CA         Beyond the Basics of Social Security Programs

Feb. 28, 2011    San Jose, CA                Benefits and Employment in 2011



March 1, 2011   San Jose, CA               Beyond the Basics of Social Security Programs

March 2, 2011  Oakland, CA                Benefits and Employment in 2011

March 3, 2011   Rohnert Park, CA       Benefits and Employment in 2011

March 14, 2011 Tacoma, WA                Benefits and Employment in 2011

March 15, 2011 Tacoma, WA                Beyond the Basics of Social Security Programs

March 16, 2011 Seattle, WA                 Benefits and Employment in 2011


March (tentative)  Oregon

April   (tentative)  Pennsylvania


                                South Dakota





Webinars Available


Webinars are an excellent alternative to the live presentations when the locations are not conducive or your schedule prevents you from attending.  The three webinars listed below contain the same material as the live “Benefits and Employment in 2011" workshop.  

Webinars can be viewed at any time.  Simply register, pay the fee, print out the handout, and attend the session. 


The Basics of the Social Security Programs

The Basics of the title II Program (Social Security, SSDI)

The Basics of the title XVI Program (SSI)


Go to the webinar section of my website [Click Here]




While They Last.


I am clearing inventory of the 2010 editions of “THE GUIDE”, the “Managing Your SSI Benefit and Income” handbook, and the “Managing Your SSDI benefit and Income” handbook.  A set of books (one each) is now available for $30 plus $5 shipping. (Regular price $92.00 per set)  This offer is not available at the website, call 610-696-1551 to order.  Payment can only be by credit card.  This offer ends when the inventory is gone.


The 2011 editions are available and can be ordered at my website [Click Here].