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SSA Work Incentives Enrollment, 1990-2004

Data Note 3, 2005


Originally published: 3/2005

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To encourage employment for individuals with disabilities, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers special provisions that limit the impact of work on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. These provisions are called work incentives and include the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE), and Blind Work Expenses (BWE).

PASS, IRWE, and BWE allow individuals to set aside money, resources, and expenses to be excluded from total earned income calculations. PASS allows people to set aside money and resources to be used for attaining a work goal such as going back to school, finding a better job, or starting a business. IRWE allows people to exclude expenses that are necessary for work, such as wheelchairs, transportation, or specialized equipment. BWE allows the exclusion of expenses such as service animals, income taxes, and visual/sensory aids.

The table below displays the national mean number of people enrolled per state in these work incentive programs from 1990 to 2004:

Work Incentives Enrollment, 1990-2004
1990 44 106 86
1991 70 128 85
1992 115 153 87
1993 159 169 86
1994 203 186 86
1995 202 195 87
1996 92 192 83
1997 39 189 81
1998 21 182 75
1999 20 187 78
2000 27 184 76
2001 31 173 71
2002 34 158 66
2003 35 152 61
2004 32 137 57

A notable trend is the sharp drop in the number of people enrolled in the PASS program in 1996. This decline followed a publication of the General Accounting Office that criticized SSA for being too lenient in accepting applicants into a program they deemed to be ineffective for achieving the goal of self-support. The procedures for acceptance were then reevaluated by SSA and amended, resulting in fewer approvals in subsequent years.


Social Security Administration. (n.d.) Work incentives. http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/workincentives.htm

U.S. General Accounting Office. (1996). PASS program: SSA work incentive for disabled beneficiaries poorly managed (GAO/HEHS-96-51). Washington, DC: Author.

This is a publication of StateData.info, funded in part by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (#90DN0204). This Data Note was written by Katherine Fichthorn and Dana Scott Gilmore.

A project of the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston

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