Employment is about more than making a living. Working and earning a wage promotes dignity, self-worth, and independence and provides a sense of community. Fortunately, a person with disabilities can participate in the workforce, earn some income, and keep vital public benefits.


The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit (up to $841 per month in 2022) is available to an individual who has limited income, limited resources, and a disability severe enough that he cannot earn an average of $1,350 a month (increased to $2,260 for statutorily blind individuals). For SSI there is no requirement of any previous work history, which distinguishes SSI from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). As SSI and SSDI are very different programs this article addresses only the impact of earned income on SSI and its associated and crucial benefit, Medicaid.


For most ABLE account owners, the annual ABLE contribution limit (from all sources) is $16,000 (as of 2022). But if Anne is not participating in her employer-sponsored retirement plan she is able to contribute the lesser or her earned compensation or $12,880 (in 2022) to her ABLE account (The ABLE to Work Act is set to expire in 2025.) This allows her to save at least some of the extra funds she is earning without putting her SSI and Medicaid benefits at risk.


Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” Fortunately, the law allows opportunities for an individual to experience the gratification of work without sacrificing the safety nets of SSI and Medicaid.


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