Balancing Work and Public Benefits

Many individuals and support professionals report employment decisions are restricted by concerns of losing needed public benefits. Misinformation and the shortage of informed professionals lead many individuals to choose unemployment, ongoing poverty and/or compromise full potential to avoid losing benefits. There are several work incentives to help people with disabilities achieve greater independence by helping them to take advantage of employment opportunities. Work incentives are intended to help individuals go to work and minimize the risk of losing their needed benefits. There are many scenarios of how an individual can work, increase his/her income and retain needed benefits. 

What resources are available through the Division of Developmental Disabilities?

The Division of Developmental Disabilities, along with partner agencies, have developed an online website to assist with becoming more informed on the opportunities to have earned income and manage current Social Security and Medicaid benefits. Missouri Disability Benefits 101, also known as MO DB101, is a resource to assist with making these important decisions and to assist with separating facts from myths.  Brief informational videos have been developed to simplify the facts.

Many individuals will need to meet with a benefits planning counselor. Speak with your Support Coordinator or contact your local regional office to learn more about the supports available through Career Planning.

The Division of Developmental Disabilities also has a few certified benefits planners on staff. To learn more about this support, contact your nearest Employment First Specialist.

What resources and support are available through Social Security?

The Social Security Administration has several incentives that support individuals with working and retaining necessary benefits.

  • For recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) there are automatic work incentives for all recipients such as a Trial Work Period, Extended Period of Eligibility, Grace Period of Cessation and Expedited Reinstatement. In addition, there are impairment related work deductions and consideration of special conditions needed for employment.
  • For recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) there are automatic work incentives such as general income exclusion and earned income exclusion. In addition, there are other automatic work incentives for students, income deductions for impairment related expenses and plans for achieving self-support.

Additional Resources related to managing earned income with Social Security benefits include the following:

  • Choose work is an online resource developed by Social Security to assist individuals and families with becoming familiar with programs and resources to assist with one’s employment pathway.
  • Ticket to work is a free and voluntary program for Social Security disability beneficiaries between the age of 18 to 64 who want to work.
  • Work incentives help individuals with the transition to work and make it possible to explore work while still receiving benefits.
  • Readiness for work is an online screening tool to assist individuals with making the determination if they would like to begin the employment pathway.
  • Employment Teams are created by Social Security to assist individuals with having the necessary supports to make informed decisions.
  • The Red Book is a reference manual that provides an overview of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Program.
  • Wage reporting is a requirement of all employed individuals to ensure proper payments are calculate and to prevent overpayments from Social Security.
  • A resource locater will help you search for the nearest Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program or other support services needed.
  • Missouri Ticket to Work Health Assurance (TWHA) provides medical care for persons with disabilities, age 16 through 64, who are employed.
Are there opportunities to save money without it impacting Social Security and Medicaid?

In December 2014, the federal government passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act that allows families and individuals with disabilities the opportunity to create tax-advantaged accounts that can be used to help maintain health, independence, and quality of life.

In Missouri, this is known as MO ABLE. MO ABLE is an investment account available to eligible individuals with disabilities. These accounts allow individuals to save and invest money without losing eligibility to Medicaid or SSI. Earnings in MO ABLE accounts are not subject to federal income tax as long as savings are spent on “Qualified Disability Expenses”.

An “Eligible Individual” is someone who developed their disability before the age of 26. The individual must have been living with their disability for at least one year, or they must expect their disability to last for at least a year. In Missouri, these accounts are administered by the Missouri State Treasurer’s office.