What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - Supplemental Security Income or SSI is a federal income supplement program for adults and children with disabilities, and adults 65+, who have limited income and resources. SSI is funded by general tax revenues (not SSA taxes) and provides a cash benefit that pays for basic living needs. For more information on SSI, go to www.ssa.gov/ssi.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI is available to individuals who become disabled and are unable to do substantial work. SSDI benefits may be payable to certain family members as well. In order to qualify for SSDI, an individual must have paid Social Security taxes and earned enough work credits. For more information on SSDI, go to www.ssa.gov/pgm/disability.htm.Report your SSI and SSDI wages

Apply for SSI & SSDI Benefits

Goodwill's WIPA program cannot help you apply for or determine your eligibility for SSI or SSDI benefits. To determine whether you qualify, please contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).

To visit the Social Security Administration's website click here

To apply for SSDI benefits click here

To apply for SSI benefits click here

Many beneficiaries new to returning to work often do not realize or remember what they are supposed to report to Social Security. Beneficiaries often think that Social Security knows when they have returned to work and others who do report their earnings to Social Security do so incorrectly.

Why do you need to report your earnings to Social Security when you receive SSI and/or SSDI benefits?

When you work, your earnings can impact your benefits. Under SSI, earnings often adjust the amount of the cash benefit you are eligible for on a monthly basis. Under SSDI or other Title II benefits programs, earnings from work can trigger certain events that require decisions by Social Security. Not reporting your earnings or work activity to Social Security also means that you could be missing out on using valuable work incentives that prolong critical cash benefits as you work toward greater financial self-sufficiency.

But most importantly, not reporting your wages to Social Security can result in overpayment of benefits.

Tips and Best Practices to help you report your earnings to Social Security*:

This list is in no way definitive; and you should always consult with your local Social Security Field Office to find out how frequently they want you to report your earnings to them.**

  • Do NOT report your earnings by telephone! - The best way to report a new job and earnings to Social Security is to report the information to your local office in writing or in person. When reporting employment for the first time, or any changes to employment (i.e. job loss, increase/decrease in pay), provide your local Social Security Field Office with the following in writing or in person:
        a. Your name, address, phone number and Social Security Number
        b. Type of Social Security benefits you receive
        c. Name, address, and phone number of your employer
        d. Name of your direct supervisor
        e. Date of hire, date of job change, or date of termination if reporting a job loss
        f. Pay rate and average number of hours worked per week
        g. Pay dates
        h. Your job title
  • Keep all of your paystubs or pay records - After you report your new job or job change for the first time, Social Security will need verification of your earnings. Your paystubs or pay records are your verification. You will need to mail them to you local office. Before mailing them, check with your Field Office to find out when they want you to send your paystubs and make copies of all your wage verification sent (i.e. paystubs).
  • If you receive SSI, you should report your earnings at least every 3 months - Use this practice if your local Field Office does not provide you with specific reporting instructions. Otherwise, follow the wage reporting instructions provided to you by your local office and document what you were told.
  • If you receive both SSI and a Title II benefit (i.e. SSDI, CDB, DWB), you will need to report your employment and earnings TWICE – once to SSI and once to SSDI! - Because SSI and SSDI are two different benefits programs with different rules regarding work, you will need to report your earnings to both an SSI and SSDI Claims Representative.
  • Once you start working- make sure you know how the basic work rules operate under the SSI and/or SSDI programs. This includes how income is treated and what critical points exist in the return-to-work process that triggers decisions by Social Security. A community work incentives coordinator with your local WIPA program can help you to understand these so that you can make the most of available work incentives and avoid or greatly reduce your exposure to benefit overpayments.
  • Keep records of information sent to and communications received from Social Security - Maintain a file titled “Social Security” with all of the important communications you receive from Social Security and copies of any documentation you send to them. Document phone calls to Social Security, including date, time, name of person you spoke with, and outcome. Send correspondence via Certified Mail when using the postal system to deliver documentation to Social Security. Maintain copies of all documentation sent to Social Security (e.g. paystubs, forms, letters, etc.). Be sure to get receipts from your local Social Security Field Office when you report work and keep these in your folder as well.
  • Open and read all documentation you receive from Social Security! - Letters and other forms you receive from Social Security often contain important information on you benefits and may require you to respond to your local Field Office, or other Social Security Disability Office reviewing your benefits, within a specific period of time.
  • Do NOT spend SSI or Title II (i.e. SSDI, CDB, DWB) cash benefits you receive from Social Security that you think you are not entitled to receive - Keep these benefits in the bank while you work with Social Security to update your benefits record. Be proactive, contact a community work incentives coordinator who can help you to identify and anticipate those points in your employment when you may no longer be entitled to a cash benefit.  Remember, if you have Medicaid, or you access other income sensitive programs, the amount you save in the bank does count towards the amount of resources these programs consider when determining eligibility. 

 Other things to remember about earnings from work and Social Security disability benefits:

  • Social Security looks at gross earnings – meaning what you are paid before any taxes or other deductions are applied to your earnings, not what your take-home pay is.
  • For Title II (i.e. SSDI, CDB, and DWB benefits), Social Security looks at when you earned wages during a full calendar month. In other words, they are looking at the total wages that reflect your work activity during the month.
  • For SSI, Social Security looks at when you were paid wages. They are concerned with the number of paychecks you receive in any given month. For example, if you are paid twice a month, wages that count for Social Security purposes are the total of the gross earnings on each of the paychecks received during the month.
  • Under the SSI and Title II programs (i.e. SSDI, CDB, DWB), you may be able to use work incentives that reduce the amount of earnings Social Security counts toward determining your eligibility for your cash benefit. These work incentives can help you prolong your cash benefit as you work toward greater self-sufficiency. Visit Social Security’s Redbook to find out what work incentives are available. You can also contact a community work incentives coordinator with your local WIPA for more information about Social Security work incentives.

The SSI Telephone and Mobile Wage Reporting System

If you receive SSI only, you may be able to report your earnings to Social Security via a telephone or mobile wage reporting system. The telephone system is an automated toll-free number. To use the mobile wage reporting option, you must download the free smartphone app for Android or Apple. To find out if you qualify to use either of these options, please contact your local Social Security Field Office for assistance.

Social Security can also send you a monthly email or text reminder to report your earnings if you receive SSI. You can receive these reminders regardless if you choose telephone, mobile, or traditional reporting methods. For more information about receiving email or text reminders, please visit Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssiwagereporting.

If you are self-employed:

Contact your local Social Security Field Office about reporting earnings and work activity to them as different rules apply to earnings from self-employment. You can also speak with a community work incentives coordinator about how earnings from self-employment are treated under the SSI and Title II programs and related work incentives.

In general, when reporting your earnings to Social Security, remember to follow the instructions provided to you by your local Field Office for reporting wages, keep copies of all of your paystubs and other wage verification or correspondence sent to Social Security, and contact your local WIPA program for assistance in reporting wages, work incentives use, and tracking your earnings against your benefits so you can anticipate any changes with your cash benefits.

Remember: It is your responsibility (or, the responsibility of your Representative Payee) to report earnings and other information and changes to Social Security.

Goodwill’s WIPA program does not report wages to Social Security on behalf of beneficiaries.

*These tips are adapted from Virginia Commonwealth University’s “Reporting tips for Beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Programs” available at www.vcu-ntc.org.

**An exception would be if you receive SSI benefits only and use Social Security’s toll-free telephone wage reporting system. For more information on Social Security’s SSI wage reporting system please click here. (use this web link http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-telephone-wage.htm.)

Email: benefitscounseling@yourgoodwill.org
Call: 1-888-960-WORK

The contents of this WIPA publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views of the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA has reviewed the publication for technical accuracy; however, it should not be considered an SSA official document. The WIPA program is 95% federally funded by SSA under cooperative agreement 1WIP13050350-01-00.