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Blind Work Expenses (BWE)

If you are statutorily blind and apply for or are receiving Social Security Disability benefits under SSI, you are eligible for blind work expenses. If you are blind and apply for or are receiving Social Security Disability benefits under SSDI, you are eligible for impairment related work expenses.

Under SSDI, a blind person has an income limit of $1,650 a month in order to meet the substantial gainful activity test. Impairment related work expenses effectively serve as deductions from your income, helping you to meet the income limits to qualify for Social Security disability benefits under SSDI. For example, if you make $2,000 a month, you would ordinarily be $350 over the income limit for a blind person receiving SSDI. However, if taxes, aids to working, transportation expenses, and visual aids totaled $350 a month, you would meet the SSDI income limit and thus qualify for disability benefits.

Under SSI a blind person does not have to meet the substantial gainful activity test. In order to qualify for SSI, you must have limited assets, including both limited income and limited resources. SSI benefits depend on the total amount of your income (both earned and unearned), your resources (what you own), and on your living situation. To be eligible for blind work expenses, you must either be under age 65, or have been receiving SSI payments due to blindness prior to age 65. Blind work expenses can help your income qualify for SSI. Blind work expenses may help to increase your benefit check to the maximum amount, allowing you to recoup some or all of these expenses.

Both blind work expenses and impairment related work expenses are expenses that help you earn income, such as a seeing-eye dog or cab fare to and from work. While these expenses are not necessarily related directly to blindness, they are expenses that are needed to help a blind person travel to and from his or her place of employment, help him or her perform work, or offset the taxes that are a result of working. Blind work expenses include federal and state taxes, visual aids, Braille translation, and even some professional dues.

Since blind work expenses (and impairment related work expenses) offset work-related expenses, rather than actually increasing your Social Security Disability benefits, they can bee seen primarily as a work incentive. Blind work expenses (and impairment related work expenses) make it possible for a blind person to work without jeopardizing income limits that would disqualify them from Social Security Disability benefits.