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What is an 'Impairment-Related Work Expense' for SSDI purposes?

A previous post here covered the concept of "substantial gainful activity" when it comes to applying for Social Security Disability Insurance. The Social Security Administration looks at whether an applicant's disability prevents the person from working enough such that earnings meet the requirements to be considered substantial gainful activity, or SGA. If it does, that applicant may not be eligible for SSDI benefits.

This does not mean, however, that a person who works is automatically ineligible for such benefits. One way that an applicant can be working and still qualify is to have actual earnings theoretically reduced for the purposes of the SGA test. An example of this happening is when a person has an Impairment-Related Work Expense (IRWE). Briefly, according to SSA, the cost of certain devices or services can be deducted from an applicant's earnings for the purposes of determining SGA. But what qualifies as an IRWE?

There are four basic requirements for a device or service to qualify as an IRWE. First, the device or service must enable the applicant to do the work. Second, the implement or service is required due to the applicant's physical or mental disability. Third, the applicant must be paying for the implement or service and not be reimbursed for it by an employer or insurance company or program, like Medicaid. Finally, the cost to be deducted must be "reasonable." This means it is a standard amount charged for the device or service in the marketplace.

There is more to receiving a deduction for an IRWE during an SSDI application than can be covered in the scope of this post. As getting such a deduction for the purposes of the SGA can mean the difference between receiving benefits and being denied, it may be a good idea for those who believe they qualify for the deduction to get more information.

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