BenefitU logo - color.

Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE)

Quick Navigation

Share

What is an IRWE?

If you have out of pocket expenses for items or services necessary for work due to an impairment, you may be able to claim these costs as Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWEs). The IRWE work incentive allows you to recover up to ½ of your expenses on your SSI check.

Does my expense count as an IRWE?

An expense may count as an IRWE when it meets the following conditions:

Examples of IRWEs include:

For Example...

Jaime paid out of pocket for the following so that he can work:

Jaime can claim the expenses for attendant care and orthotics as IRWEs. The work uniform would not count as an IRWE because it is not related to an impairment: everyone at work wears a uniform.

How does it work?

Social Security will exclude all approved IRWEs from your gross earned income when they calculate your monthly SSI benefit amount. This exclusion will result in you recovering up to ½ of your expenses on your SSI check. For example, if you pay $100 for an IRWE, you may see your SSI check increase by up to $50. 

Once an IRWE is approved, you will want to send receipts of payment to Social Security each month. For more information about reporting, visit What do I report to Social Security?

IRWE Calculation Example: Meet Asha

Asha is eligible for $943 SSI and earns $1,250 gross wages per month. Asha pays $200 out of pocket each month for a therapist to help her understand social cues, as customer service is an important part of her work. She explains to Social Security that her need for therapy is related to her impairment and necessary to do her job. Social Security agrees and applies the Impairment Related Work Expense when calculating Asha’s SSI benefit amount.

Let’s look at Asha having an approved IRWE and compare that to if she did not report the expense to Social Security.

With an approved IRWE

Step One: What is Asha’s countable income?

   $1,250 gross wages
$20 General Exclusion   
= $1,230

$65 Earned Income Exclusion
= $1,165 

Here, Social Security applies the Impairment Related Work Expense:

   $1,165
$200 IRWE
= $965

Social Security continues with the calculation:

   $965 / 2 (divide by 2)
= $482.50 

$482.50 is Asha’s total countable income.

Step Two: What will be Asha’s adjusted SSI?

   $943 SSI  
– $482.50 total countable income 
= $460.50 SSI

Step Three: What does Asha get altogether?

   $1,250 gross wages 
– $200 payment for therapist
+ $460.50 SSI check 
= $1,510.50 total monthly income 

Without an approved IRWE

Step One: What is Asha’s countable income?

   $1,250 gross wages
$20 General Exclusion   
= $1,230

$65 Earned Income Exclusion
= $1,165 

   $1,165 / 2 (divide by 2)
= $582.50

$582.50 is Asha’s total countable income.

Step Two: What will be Asha’s adjusted SSI?

   $943 SSI  
– $582.50 total countable income 
= $360.50 SSI

Step Three: What does Asha get altogether?

   $1,250 gross wages 
– $200 payment for therapist
+ $360.50 SSI check 
= $1,410.50 total monthly income

In both situations, Asha is paying $200 for therapy services. By letting Social Security know about the expense, Asha can take advantage of the IRWE work incentive: her SSI is $100 more than the SSI she would receive without an approved IRWE. She recovered half of the cost of her expense on her SSI check.

How do I let Social Security know about an IRWE?

To let Social Security know about an IRWE, you can send the following information to your local Social Security office through fax, mail, or by visiting your local office:

Once you have sent Social Security this information, follow up and check to see if the work incentive has been approved. It may take a few weeks to a few months for Social Security to approve an IRWE.

If your IRWE ends, be sure to let Social Security know by contacting them through fax, mail, or by visiting them at their local office.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. You have to pay for the expense yourself for it to qualify as an IRWE. A payment made by another party, such as DVR or a family member, will not qualify as an IRWE.

Yes. Payment for items you need in anticipation of work – even though you are not yet working – may be claimed as an IRWE. The IRWE deduction will be applied in the first month you have income. Please note, this rule applies only when the expense is for a durable item – something that can be used repeatedly – and not for a service.

When you receive SSI, you cannot receive more than the maximum SSI amount from Social Security (which is based on the Federal Benefit Rate) in a month. Because your SSI is reduced by $100 in the month, the most you can recover from an IRWE in the month is $100.
You do have another option. When you have a non-recurring expense, you can choose to have Social Security deduct the IRWE entirely in one month or prorate the deduction over 12 months.
In this situation, the better option would be to ask Social Security to spread the $1,500 IRWE over 12 months. Social Security would apply a $125 IRWE deduction each month ($1,500 divided by 12 months equals $125), and you would receive half of $125 back on your SSI. By the end of the year, you will have recovered ½ of your total expense, or $750.

Scroll to Top