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Beneficiary

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The person who is getting a benefit.

Benefits Expert

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A trained professional who can help you understand disability benefit programs and how they are affected by work. Their goal is to help you avoid financial complications while developing a sustainable plan for the future.

Chat with a Hub expert.

Benefits Planning Query (BPQY)

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A report that summarizes your current Social Security disability benefits and available work incentives. To order one, visit your local Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213 (voice); 1-800-325-0778 (TTY). Be sure to review your BPQY carefully. If you have questions about it, contact a benefits expert or Social Security.

Tip: The BPQY is form number SSA-2459. If a Social Security Claims Representative does not know what a BPQY is, mention the form number.

Blindness

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Eyesight that is very limited. To be considered legally blind, you must:

  • Have a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye, even while you are wearing a correcting contact lens or glasses in that eye; or
  • Have a limitation in the field of vision of your better eye, so that:
    • You have a contraction of peripheral visual fields to 10 degrees from the point of fixation, or
    • The widest diameter of your visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees, or
    • You have a contraction of peripheral visual fields to 20% or less visual field efficiency.

Social Security and other agencies use this definition of blindness to decide if you qualify for benefits programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Some people with vision impairments that do not meet these standards may still qualify for benefits.

Blue Book (Listing of Impairments)

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The Social Security publication that provides detailed information about disability programs to physicians and other health care professionals. The Blue Book includes the complete Listing of Impairments, which lists and defines those conditions considered severe enough to prevent a person from doing any gainful activity. The Blue Book can now be accessed online.

Continuing Disability Review (CDR)

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A periodic review to determine if there has been any medical improvement in your condition and/or to determine whether you continue to be eligible for Social Security benefits for other reasons. The two types of reviews are called a medical CDR and a work CDR.

Disability (Definition used by Social Security for Adults)

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The inability to engage in any Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

A person must not only be unable to do his/her previous work but cannot, considering age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of SGA which exists in the national economy. It doesn't matter whether such work exists in the immediate area, or whether a specific job vacancy exists, or whether the worker would be hired if he/she applied for work. The worker’s impairment(s) must be the primary reason for his/her inability to engage in SGA.

Disability Determination

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An agency ruling that you have a disability and are therefore entitled to benefits. To qualify for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration or the State Medical Review Team (SMRT) must review your situation and determine that you have a disability. If you're on SSI, SSDI, or any Minnesota disability benefits program, you've already been determined disabled by Social Security or SMRT.

Disability Determination Process (SSA)

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The evaluation process the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to decide whether a person's disability meets SSA’s disability criteria for disability-based benefits.

Disabled Adult Child (DAC)

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Social Security benefits for adults who:

  • Became disabled before turning 22, and
  • Have a parent who died or who gets retirement or SSDI benefits.

Also called "Childhood Disability Benefits" (CDB).

Earned Income (EI)

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Salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and other amounts you receive as pay for physical or mental work you perform. This can include things you get in exchange for work instead of wages, such as food, shelter, or other items. Funds received from any other source are not included. (Contrast: unearned income.)

Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits

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A quicker way to get benefits restarted for individuals whose Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) ends due to employment. You get up to six months of benefits while SSA decides if you have medically improved or not. This provision is available for up to five years after your benefits end.

Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

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A three-year period (36 months) after your SSDI Trial Work Period ends, during which you can keep getting SSDI benefits in any month when you earn less than the Substantial Gainful Activity level ($1,220 in 2019; $2,040 if you're blind).

If you earn more than SGA, your SSDI benefits will be suspended. However, during the EPE, you are eligible to have your SSDI benefits restarted if your earnings drop below SGA.

FICA Taxes

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Taxes that are deducted from your paycheck when you work to help pay for Social Security and Medicare. FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act.

Five-Year Window

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The 60 consecutive months (five years) during which you can work nine Trial Work Months.

The window begins on the first TWP month, but rolls forward until you have worked nine Trial Work Months within 60 consecutive months.

Grace Period

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When a person has a pattern of work in which countable earnings exceed Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), the first 3-months of that pattern are the Grace Period. A person gets full Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments regardless of wages during this period.

Gross Income

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Your earned income (before taxes and other deductions are made) plus your unearned income.

Gross Monthly Earnings

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Your total earned income for the month before taxes and other deductions are made.

HIV/AIDS Disability Form 4814 for Social Security

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A form for individuals with HIV/AIDS who are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The form requires physicians to identify whether an individual has one of the 41 opportunistic infections listed on the form, and to specify any "repeated manifestations" of other symptoms that restrict certain aspects of the individual's life.

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE)

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Documented expenses for services or items that are related to a serious medical condition or impairment and needed in order to work. Wheelchairs, physician visits, copayments for prescriptions, and other medical expenses are some examples of IRWEs. The expenses must be verified by original receipts and canceled checks and approved by Social Security.

Income

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Money from salaries, wages, tips, disability benefits, investments, dividends, and funds received from any other source. Includes both earned and unearned income.

Integration

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The adjustment of payments when an individual is eligible for more than one benefit program.

Liquid Assets

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Cash or other property which can be converted to cash within 20 days, excluding non-work days. Liquid assets include: checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual fund shares, promissory notes, mortgages, and life insurance policies.

Medical Assistance (MA)

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A state-run health care program that pays medical expenses for people who are disabled, young, elderly, poor, or pregnant. If you meet program requirements, MA will help pay for a variety of medical services including visits to the doctor, hospital stays, medical equipment, home care services, and prescription drugs. To apply for MA, visit your county human services agency.

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA)

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A state program that provides a monthly cash benefit to people who are aged, blind or disabled and who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Some people who don't get SSI may still be eligible for MSA if their income is low enough and they meet other program criteria.

The MSA benefit you get depends on your living arrangements, the amount you get in SSI (if you get an SSI benefit), and whether or not you have any special needs expenses. The current monthly MSA benefit for many individuals is $81 ($111 for couples). To apply for MSA, visit your county human services agency.

Net Income

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The amount of income you have after certain amounts are subtracted from it.

Onset Date (Social Security)

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The date, after reviewing an individual's medical records, that Social Security determines that a disability began. The date Social Security receives an application does not necessarily establish the onset date.

Overpayment

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Payment that exceeds the approved benefit amount.

Period of Entitlement

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The continuous period from the award start date of a benefit to the date when eligibility for the benefit or program stops.

Reporting Agencies

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Agencies to which you need to report any changes in your income or living situation, if you get public benefits.

If you're on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY), or visit your local Social Security office, and ask what's the best way for you to report. Note: Reporting rules for SSI and SSDI are different and if you get both benefits, you must report income for them separately.

If you're on Medical Assistance (MA), Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA), General Assistance (GA), Housing Support (formerly Group Residential Housing), or any other state health care or cash assistance programs, report any changes in earnings to your county human services agency.

Representative Payee

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A person who gets and manages benefits on someone else's behalf. Social Security does an investigation before making a relative, friend, or other person the representative payee of a beneficiary who needs help managing their benefits. For children under 18, a parent or guardian is usually the representative payee.

Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI)

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Social Security program that provides monthly income to people with disabilities, survivors or dependents of people with disabilities, and retired people. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is one part of RSDI.

Retroactive Payments

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Payments made for the period between disability onset and application approval.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

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A federal government agency that runs important programs like:

Social Security offices also handle some aspects of Medicare.

To contact SSA, call 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY) or visit your local Social Security office.

Visit the SSA.gov website.

Social Security Child's Benefits

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A Social Security cash benefit for children with a parent who gets Social Security retirement benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Children with a deceased parent may also qualify.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

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A Social Security Administration program that gives money each month to people who have a disability that meets Social Security disability rules and who, in the past, worked and paid FICA taxes for enough time to qualify. SSDI has no income limits and no resource limits. The amount you get in SSDI benefits depends on your Social Security earnings record. After getting SSDI benefits for two years, you automatically qualify for Medicare health coverage.

SSDI also offers benefits to family members, including children and widows, when a primary wage earner in the family becomes disabled or dies. Additionally, adults whose disabilities began before they turned 22 may be able to get Disabled Adult Child (DAC).

SSA-approved Vocational Rehabilitation Plan

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An employment support program that meets Social Security's criteria for Section 301.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

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The amount of monthly earned income that shows a person is doing significant work according to Social Security. People who cannot earn more than SGA due to their disabilities may be considered disabled by Social Security and other agencies that use Social Security’s definition of disability.

In 2019, SGA is $1,220 per month ($2,040 for people who are blind).

SGA levels for previous years:

Year Disabled, Non-blind Blind
2018 $1,180 $1,970
2017 $1,170 $1,950
2016 $1,130 $1,820
2015 $1,090 $1,820
2014 $1,070 $1,800
2013 $1,040 $1,740
2012 $1,010 $1,690
2011 $1,000 $1,640
2010 $1,000 $1,640

Social Security lists the SGA levels for earlier years.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

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A county-run, federal program that helps people with low incomes buy food. Formerly called Food Support (in MN) or Food Stamps.

Ticket

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A standard electronic form that indicates eligibility for the Ticket to Work Program.

Ticket to Work Program

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A Social Security Administration (SSA) program that helps adults with disabilities prepare for, find, and keep jobs. To qualify, you must be 18 – 64 years old and currently be getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Ticket to Work offers free services, such as:

Learn more on the Ticket to Work website.

Trial Work Month (SSDI)

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Any month when gross monthly earnings are above $880 (for 2019). Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs) cannot be deducted when figuring out Trial Work month earnings.

Trial Work month income levels are indexed annually for increases or decreases in the average wage. Previous Trial Work month gross income levels were:

  • $850 in 2018
  • $840 in 2017
  • $810 in 2016
  • $780 in 2015
  • $770 in 2014
  • $750 in 2013
  • $720 in 2012
  • $720 in 2011
  • $720 in 2010
  • $700 in 2009
  • $670 in 2008
  • $640 in 2007
  • $620 in 2006
  • $590 in 2005
  • $580 in 2004
  • $570 in 2003
  • $560 in 2002
  • $530 in 2001
  • $200 from 1990 to 2000, and
  • $75 before 1990.

Trial Work Period (TWP)

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The Trial Work Period is the nine Trial Work months occurring within a five-year window when you can work and continue to get your full SSDI benefit. These work months can occur one right after the other or be spread out over time.

Unearned Income (UI)

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Funds received from sources for which no paid work activity is performed. Disability benefits such as SSDI, SSI, short-term disability insurance, and long-term disability insurance; VA benefits; Workers' Compensation; income from a trust or investment; spousal support; dividends, profits, or funds received from any source other than work are all usually considered unearned income.

Unincurred Business Expenses

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Financial or other assistance from an agency or individual to help establish or sustain a self-employed person’s business. Examples include a government agency paying for some of your business expenses, or providing you with things of value (e.g. office space) free of charge.

Social Security rules do not penalize you for receiving unincurred business expenses. Instead, Social Security deducts the value of any unincurred business expenses from your net income when deciding if you have reached the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level for any given month. SSA uses fair market value to assess the value of any unincurred business expenses.

Unpaid Help

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The estimated value of any unpaid assistance from your spouse, children or others provided to your business. If someone provides your business with 10 hours/month of free web design work, and the prevailing wage for that kind of work in your community is $25/hour, the value of that unpaid help is $250/month.

Social Security rules do not penalize you for receiving unpaid help. Instead, Social Security deducts the value of any unpaid help that your business receives from your net income when deciding if you have reached the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level each month.

Wage Subsidy and Special Conditions

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For the purposes of calculating Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), wage subsidy and special conditions are support you get on the job that may result in your getting more pay than the actual value of the services you perform. Wage subsidy refers to support you get from your employer; special conditions are generally given to you by someone other than your employer, for example a vocational rehabilitation agency.

Social Security looks at wage subsidy and special conditions when they make an SGA decision. They only use earnings that represent the real value of the work you perform to decide if your work is at the SGA level. If Social Security decides that wage subsidy or special conditions exist, you can earn more while continuing to get your benefits.

Wage subsidy or special conditions may exist if:

  • You get more supervision than other workers doing the same or a similar job for the same pay
  • You have fewer or simpler tasks to complete than other workers doing the same job for the same pay, or
  • You have a job coach or mentor who helps you perform some of your work

Note that Social Security uses wage subsidy and special conditions rules when they are deciding if you have earned Substantial Gainful Activity after your SSDI Trial Work Period is over. Social Security does not use these rules during your Trial Work Period or in any Trial Work month.

Work

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Physical or mental activity that is actually performed and results in earned income.

Work Credits (SSDI)

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One of the eligibility requirements for SSDI is to have worked and paid FICA taxes for specified periods of time. If you work and earn at least $1,360 for one quarter (three months), and pay FICA taxes, you earn one SSDI "work credit." You can earn up to four credits within a 12-month period.

The number of work credits needed to qualify for SSDI depends upon how old you were when Social Security determined that you are disabled.

If you were determined disabled before age 24, you need six credits within the past three years to be eligible for SSDI.

If you were determined disabled between the ages of 24 and 31, you need 12 credits within the past six years to be eligible for SSDI.

If you were determined disabled after you turned 31, you need the number of work credits shown in the table below. And unless you are blind, you need to have earned at least 20 of those credits in the 10 years prior to becoming disabled.

Work Credits Required for SSDI Eligibility for those Born After 1929
Became Disabled At Age:
Number of Credits Needed
31 through 42
20
44
22
46
24
48
26
50
28
52
30
54
32
56
34
58
36
60
38
62 or older
40

Work Incentives

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Rules used to encourage people to work when they use public benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, and Medical Assistance all have work incentive rules.

Workers' Compensation

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A program that replaces income and provides for medical treatment when you can't work because of on-the-job injuries.