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How does the work incentive program affect NJ SSI recipients?

As many New Jersey residents know, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is run by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide financial help in the form of cash benefits to certain persons. Specifically, low-income elderly, the disabled and the blind, who have little or no income, so that they can afford basic necessities, such as food, clothing and shelter.

What else does the SSI benefits program do? In addition to providing cash, the program helps recipients achieve independence by taking advantage of any available employment opportunities. The work-incentive scheme minimizes the risk that a recipient will lose Medicaid and SSI benefits if he or she works.

What work incentives are available to SSI recipients? SSA work incentives allow a certain amount of income with no effect on benefits; more income means the benefits are lowered according to a formula that is meant to encourage employment and help recipients retain certain financial supports and medical benefits such as Medicaid.

How does the SSA handle extra income made by SSI recipients? The SSA's guidelines for its work-incentive scheme allow recipients to benefit from more than one work-incentive program. SSA excludes the first $65 an SSI recipient earns and then half of any amount over $65. In other words, for every $2 a person earns over $65, the SSA reduces SSI benefits by only $1.

SSI benefits applicants can obtain exclusions for various types of income. Income exclusions are also applicable to students receiving SSI under certain conditions. Work expenses incurred by blind and disabled SSI recipients are also excluded. SSI recipients with income-earning spouses may also be able to have part of their income excluded if they do not qualify for SSI benefits. Minor children receiving SSI and living with their parents also can exclude some of their income and resources.

Source: SSA.gov, "Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Work Incentives," accessed on Feb. 12, 2015

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