Social Security: How Remote Work Could Give Americans on SSI a Financial Safety Net
American adults who are deemed unable to work due to disability may sometimes qualify for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Income. While the programs are similar, providing benefits to adults whose illness or disability is expected to last longer than one year or to ultimately lead to death, SSDI is for those who recently worked and paid into Social Security through their payroll taxes. SSI, on the other hand, pays adults and children who have limited income and resources.
Both programs also have different earning limits before a recipient’s monthly benefits are reduced. Under SSI rules, benefits may be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar received after the first $20 in unearned income each month and the first $65 in earned income. These income limits have not been adjusted for inflation since 1972, according to “Encouraging Work in the Supplemental Security Income Program,” a new report from the Urban Institute. If they were, disability benefits would begin to phase out at $128 a month and $416 a month.
SSDI, on the other hand, enables beneficiaries to earn up to $1,350 per month with no reduction in benefits. But if earnings exceed this threshold, recipients lose SSDI cash benefits.
In its report, the Urban Institute presents the idea that reforms to the SSI work rules, including indexing the income limits to inflation, could encourage these individuals to work part-time.
“Supporting part-time work improves economic security for working beneficiaries, and research also shows that an attachment to the workforce has beneficial effects on health,” the paper asserts.
Options for remote work expand the possibilities for disabled adults to find fulfilling work that would supplement their SSI benefits. It would help many people collect a living wage through a combination of benefits and earned income and offer a financial safety net.
Additionally, the gig economy could allow individuals on SSI to work on a flexible schedule of their own making. They could take time off if their health or condition required it, and pick up extra work — up to revised income limits — without worrying about losing their benefits.
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