August is generally considered to be the ‘silly season’ to those in the press as everyone seems to be on vacation and nothing’s going on. This leads to rather random reports and stories. Avoiding that, we’re going to delve into the MDBCN blog archives and remind you of a very handy work incentive. The blog below was originally published in 2018 and has been slightly edited and updated.
Blind Work Expenses (BWE) are only available to recipients who have been determined by Social Security to meet their standards of ‘statutory blindness.’ More pertinently, and something that has a tendency to be forgotten, it is available only to SSI recipients who meet that standard.
If someone meets those two fundamental requirements they are open to a hugely advantageous work incentive that has few restrictions. If you have an expense that’s related to work you can document it, report it to Social Security and have a reasonable expectation that it will be deducted from your countable income. A few common examples of the myriad potential BWEs are: state and federal taxes; mandatory pension contributions; uniforms; transportation; service animal costs; childcare; and even meals at work.
In a further advantage, the amount is deducted after the standard earned income deductions, meaning that the final countable income amount is likely to be very low or even non-existent. For example, using Social Security’s own calculation, someone with only SSI and earned income of $685 but no BWEs or other work incentive deductions would have countable income of $300. (The SSI amount would be reduced by that amount and he would end up with SSI of $450.) If the beneficiary had BWEs those expenses would be subtracted from the final countable income of $300. With monthly BWEs amounting to $300 there would be no reduction in the SSI amount and he could expect to have his $685 in earned income as well as a full SSI amount of $914.
The only real disadvantage is it does require a good deal of record keeping and reporting for a beneficiary to fully take advantage of the opportunity. Also, as with much that is reported, it’s up to Social Security’s discretion as to what actually constitutes a BWE.