Sheltered Work: How Does It Affect SSI Eligibility?

Sheltered Work and SSI Eligibility

Sheltered work is defined as work that’s performed by disabled individuals under special supervision. This type of work is performed at work centers, which may also be referred to as sheltered workshops. The centers are often run by local/state government programs or nonprofit organizations. Another trait that sets this category of work apart from others is individuals can legally be paid less than minimum wage. The goal of this type of work is to help individuals who are disabled gain basic skills they can then use to get a job in the general economy.

In addition to learning basic job skills, individuals who participate in this type of program may also be taught topics such as how to manage money and apply for jobs, as well as subjects that show the importance of being on time for work and taking care of personal hygiene requirements.

One of the most common questions about sheltered work is whether or not it affects SSI eligibility. And the answer to that question is it depends. Let’s first go over the basic requirements for SSI:

What Are the Limits for SSI Eligibility?

Working and earning income won’t automatically terminate your SSI benefits. However, it will affect the amount of the monthly payment you receive. SSI is an income-based program, paying a maximum benefit of $721 a month for 2014. The maximum monthly benefit rate will be reduced by certain types of income you receive. Social Security does not count the first $65 of earned income plus one–half of the amount over $65. Therefore, SSA will reduce your SSI benefit only $1 for every $2 you earn over $65.

Will the Social Security Administration Count Income for Sheltered Work?

There isn’t a uniform answer to this question, because it varies based on the specific phase of the SSI process that you’re in. For someone who’s applying for SSI, the SSA will use any money earned from sheltered work to calculate whether or not that person exceeds the monthly limit of $1080, for what Social Security considers significant work.

The one exception to that rule is if an individual is just starting a sheltered work program, they will go through a training period before they actually start working. While they may be paid a small stipend or wage during that time, the SSA won’t count it because the individual is considered a student instead of an employee.

For someone who’s already receiving SSI and begins sheltered work, the SSA won’t terminate benefits based on an income increase. Instead, they will adjust the amount that person receives each month.

How to Get Answers to Additional Questions About Sheltered Work and SSI

If you or a loved one is currently performing sheltered work and thinking about applying for SSI, you may have additional questions about your specific situation. To discuss those answers with a SSI attorney, contact Lisa M. Ritacco to arrange a free consultation.