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Frequently Asked Questions


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Social Security Benefits and Work



Questions about Social Security benefits and work:

Individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) often have questions how work will affect their cash benefits. Below are some frequently asked questions pertaining to Social Security benefit programs

Q: I am going to work. What should I tell the Social Security Office?

A: Always report your earnings to the Social Security Office, even if you are receiving SSI or SSDI. We recommend you also talk to your Social Security claims representative or a Work Incentive Liaison before you start working, so you’ll know exactly what and when to report. A new regulation requires Social Security to provide you with a receipt after you report your earnings to them. You may want to request a receipt for reporting your earnings in writing.

You can report your earnings in person by providing SSA with your original paycheck stubs. They will make a copy and return your paycheck stub to you. You may provide SSA with your paycheck stubs either in person or by mail. It is a good idea to report your earnings at the beginning of each month after you start working.

  • If you receive SSI, Social Security will adjust your cash benefit each month based on what you are paid each month. Your cash benefit will decrease by less than half of your earnings. Social Security will use a countable income formula to determine how much to reduce your SSI check based on how much you are paid each month. Because of the countable income formula, people who are SSI recipients who go to work usually realize they have more income as they return to work. Additionally, SSA may also deduct certain work and disability related expenses from the income they count. You should contact an Indiana Works Community Work Incentives Coordinator to see what work-related expenses and work incentives apply to you as you work.

  • If you are a SSDI beneficiary, Social Security tracks what you earn each month. Your continued eligibility to receive SSDI is dependent on what you earn after you complete the Trial Work Period, and what SSDI work incentives apply to your situation. An Indiana Works Community Work Incentives Coordinator can show you how to track your earnings each month and determine when and how to use Social Security Work Incentives that apply to SSDI and your individual situation, to help you maximize your benefits and work efforts.

Be sure to keep a copy of any information (such as pay stubs) that you give SSA. You may also want to meet with an Indiana Works Community Work Incentives Coordinator. They can give you details on how work affects your cash benefits, as well as state, health care and housing assistance, and can help you identify any state and federal work incentives that apply to you.

Q: If I am working, and I have to quit my job because of my disability, what happens to my benefits?

A: Always report your work activity to the Social Security Administration. If you stop working while you are still receiving cash benefits from SSA, your benefits should continue.  

If you have stopped receiving SSDI or SSI benefits completely because of your work earnings, but then you have to stop working because of your disability or illness, you can ask SSA for an Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits. If you feel that you can no longer work above SGA due to your disability you have to file the request weithin 60 months of the month after your benefits end.  While SSA is making their decision, you can receive temporary benefits for up to six months. If they turn you down because you no longer meet the SSDI / SSI disability definition, you will not have to pay these benefits back.

To find out if Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits applies to your situation, contact a your local Social Security Office or ask an Indiana Works Benefits Planner.

Q: If I receive SSI, and I report my earnings, how long does it take for my SSI check to be reduced based on my additional income from earnings?

A: It is best to report your earnings as early as possible following the last paycheck you receive each month. Once Social Security calculates how much your check should be reduced, it will be about two months before you notice a change in your SSI cash payment. Likewise, if your check should decrease because of reduced work hours or loss in your job, it will be about two months before your check increases. Reporting your earnings as soon as possible after your last paycheck each month is necessary to ensure your SSI check will be adjusted in a timely manner.

Q: I received a Ticket to Work in the mail. What is this and what should I do with it?

A: If you received a Ticket to Work in the mail, this is an opportunity for you to get assistance with finding employment services. You can take this document to an “Employment Network” – an agency, organization, or group of organizations – to receive free employment services and supports. Indiana’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation is one of the Employment Networks. To find additional Employment Networks in your area, call MAXIMUS, the Ticket to Work program manager, at 866/968-7842, or go to Ticket to Work web site.

Q. I heard that I will lose my benefits if I go to work. Is that true?

A: You will not necessarily lose your benefits. There are different rules for SSDI and SSI. People on SSI will see a gradual reduction in their check. People on SSDI may work and not lose their check at all depending on how much they earn. Additionally, there are work incentives for each program to help you keep your benefits as long as possible as you work toward self sufficiency. The work incentives are tailored to meet individual needs and situations. It is a good idea to explore work incentives with the Social Security Administration and an Indiana Works Community Work Incentives Coordinator.

Q: I just received a Work Activity Report in the mail? What is this?

A: The Work Activity Report is a normal part of the SSA process in gathering information for people who are receiving cash benefits and working. The Work Activity report asks questions about your work, your wages, and deductions you claim against your gross countable monthly earnings. It is very important to fill out the information to the best of your knowledge on the Work Activity Report form.  This will help Social Security to update your benefit records and earnings.

Q: If I am self-employed, what happens to my benefits?

A: There are special rules that apply to how Social Security counts earnings for individuals who are self-employed. The Social Security Administration (SSA) counts Net Earnings from Self Employment (NESE). This is your gross receipts minus your business expenses x.9235. This way, a portion of your net earnings are counted in determining your income from self-employment. Social Security has several work incentives for self-employed individuals to use while participating in self-employment and working toward self-sufficiency.


The Disability Benefits and Work website was funded by the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (CFDA # 93.768)

This site is intended for informational purposes only. Individual situations vary widely and must be evaluated on an individual basis by Division of Family Resources eligibility caseworkers, or Social Security Claims Representatives and/or Indiana Works-Community Works Incentive Coordinators. Links from this site are provided to help people research various topics and do not constitute endorsements by the State of Indiana or its partners.