What is a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)?

The PASS program is part of Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. People who are on SSI can set aside some of their income and assets in a PASS to help them reach a specified work goal and eventually become self-sufficient.

Can I get help applying for a PASS?

Yes. Social Security's PASS Cadres are experts in the PASS program. One of their jobs is to help people develop their PASS plans and successfully apply for the program.

To contact the Denver PASS Cadre (serving Fergus Falls, Moorhead, East Grand Forks, and Crookston), call 1-800-551-1034. To contact the St. Paul PASS Cadre (serving the rest of Minnesota), call 1-866-667-6032, ext. 34061.

Who is eligible for a PASS?

To be eligible to start a PASS you must:

  • Want to work
  • Be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of disability or blindness
  • Have income or assets (aside from SSI) to complete a work goal

Can setting up a PASS help me keep my SSI benefit if I’m working?

Yes. Setting aside funds in a PASS can be an excellent way to lower your monthly unearned income total, which lets you keep and maximize your SSI benefit.

What can I use a PASS for?

You can use a PASS to set aside income and assets you will need to reach a specific work goal. A PASS can allow you to purchase equipment, training, and other services you may need to reach your goal.

What do I have to do to participate in a PASS?

To participate in a PASS you must:

  • Have a written plan: Your PASS application must be signed by you and, if applicable, your representative payee
  • Have a work goal
  • Have a reasonable time frame and a spending plan for meeting your work goal
  • Explain the expenses necessary to achieve your work goal
  • Show what money (other than your SSI payments) and assets you will use to reach your work goal

If your PASS plan has a self-employment work goal, you must also provide a detailed business plan describing how you intend to make your business succeed.

Note: Your plan must be in writing. Social Security prefers that you use form SSA-545-BK. You can get copies of this form at your local Social Security office, from any PASS Cadre, or from the Social Security website.

Are there any medical eligibility requirements to enroll in a PASS?

Yes. To use a PASS you must continue to meet Social Security’s requirements for disability or blindness. Also, your medical condition must not prevent you from achieving your work goal.

For example, if you have difficulty standing for long periods of time and you list your work goal as becoming a traffic officer, Social Security may ask you to change that goal before they’ll approve your PASS.

Does the money I have in the bank and what I own affect my eligibility for a PASS?

Yes. To be eligible for a PASS, you must be eligible for SSI. And to be eligible for SSI, you cannot have more than $2,000 in resources ($3,000 for a couple). Certain resources are excluded, however, including the house you live in and the car you drive to work or medical appointments.

If you have resources above the SSI limits, you can put your excess resources in your PASS and qualify for SSI when you would not otherwise have been eligible. Say, for example, you have $10,000 in countable resources. You could move $8,500 into your PASS, which would reduce your countable resources to $1,500, which in turn would put you under the SSI resource limit.

How do I prepare to apply for a PASS?

Developing a PASS requires that you have a well-defined work goal and a clear explanation of how you’ll be able to achieve that goal. If you are struggling with this, you should contact a PASS Cadre or Minnesota’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services for assistance.

How long does it take Social Security to process my PASS application?

If you turn in all your documents and provide all the information requested, Social Security should be able to process your application and let you know if you’ve been approved within one to three weeks (self-employment plans may take a little longer).

Can I qualify for a PASS while I am eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

Yes. SSDI counts as income for the PASS program. If you can afford to do so, you are allowed to set aside all but $20 of your monthly SSDI cash benefit in your PASS.

Note: Whether or not you can get SSI depends on your household income and resources.

Can I qualify for a PASS while I’m on Medical Assistance (MA)?

Yes. You can use a PASS and be on MA at the same time. The money you set aside in your PASS are not counted against MA’s asset limit. If your PASS ends, however, you may need to spend down any additional resources you have that are above the MA asset limit. Note: In some cases, you may qualify for MA without an asset limit. See DB101's MA article for more information.

Can I qualify for a PASS if I'm on Section 8?

Yes. You can qualify for both PASS and Section 8. The additional assets that you save in your PASS will not affect your eligibility for Section 8 housing benefits. You may, however, need a letter from your PASS Cadre for Section 8 verification purposes.

How do I stay enrolled in a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)?

To stay enrolled in a PASS, you need to follow your written plan. If you need to make changes to your plan, or are temporarily unable to continue your plan, be sure to discuss it with your PASS Cadre. Never pay for anything with PASS funds that is not on your list of approved PASS expenses.

Are there special rules for immigrants to qualify for a PASS?

Yes. The requirements for PASS are the same for anyone who participates in Social Security disability programs. To qualify for a PASS, you must be a legal United States resident or qualified alien.

Does working have an effect on a PASS?

Yes. If you work, you may be able to set aside more money for your work goal. The money you earn that is put into a PASS is not counted as income, so you can continue to work and get Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Where can I find examples of successful PASS plans?

The University of Montana Rural Institute’s List of Successful PASS Plans is an excellent resource.