When a person files for Social Security disability benefits, the first thing that the Social Security Administration does is make a determination as to whether or not that person is "working", or what they call "engaging in substantial gainful activity" (SGA).
For 2009, if a person is working less than 40 hours per week and earning less than $980.00 GROSS per month, such earnings or "work" will not exclude the claimant from being eligible for TITLE II (SSD) benefits. For 2010, the threshold amount is $1,000.00 GROSS per month.
These same threshold amounts are used to determine if the claimant is working after they have already been found to be disabled by the Social Security Administration. This often happens when the Social Security Administration conducts what they call a "Continuing Disability Review" of a claimant who was previously found to be disabled and whose claim is being reviewed to determine if they have undergone significant medical improvement since the date they were initially found to be disabled by the Social Security Administration.
If you are earning more than the forgoing threshold amounts, you may still be eligible for benefits. You may be able to deduct what the Social Security Administration calls "impairment related work expenses" (IRWEs) from your gross earnings to fall under the threshold GROSS earnings amounts. This determination is usually done by the Social Security Administration field office workers at the District Offices. However, they do not always get it right.
The Social Security Administration is required to deduct impairment related work expenses from your earnings. The deduction applies when your impairment(s) are so severe that you are required to purchase or rent certain items and services in order to work. These items and services must be related to work but they still can be deducted even if they are also needed for your normal daily activities. You must actually pay for them out of pocket. They cannot be "in kind" trades, you will likely be required to provide receipts. If somebody else or another source will pay or reimburse you for these out of pocket expenses, such as an insurance company, the deduction is not applicable. Additionally the payment for the services or items must be made during a month of work.
The Social Security regulations indentify a number of items and services that can be considered impairment related work expenses. These include attendant care services, medical devices, prosthetic devices, equipment, transportation costs, guide dogs, drugs and medical services if related to your impairment(s). There is also a catch all category for "similar items or services" so long as they are related to your impairment(s) and needed in order to work. Costs related to installing, maintaining and repairing deductible items are also deductible as income related work expenses.
In most cases, out of pocket expenses for prescription expenses will likely go a long way to keeping a claimant under the threshold amount. Likewise, the same may be true for out of pocket expenses associated with medical care. Remember, the out-of-pocket expenses can only be deducted if they are directly related to a severe impairment and is needed to keep you working. For example, if you more severe impairment is a back and/or knee condition requiring expensive medication and you also suffer from mild allergies, prescription and treatment expenses associated with your allergies are not likely to be allowed as a deduction.
This article, as area all of my articles, is not intended to serve as legal advice. Every claimant's case is unique. You are advised to consult with an attorney. You are invited to visit my website where some of my articles have been archived. My website address is www.davidkapor.com