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Glossary of Terms

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Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
Public Law 101-336 gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.

For more information about the ADA, go to

Area Work Incentives Coordinator (AWIC)
The AWIC is a Social Security Administration employee who serves as an expert on SSA’s work incentives and employment support programs in a specific geographic area of the country. He/she manages and coordinates work incentive training; conducts public outreach; and provides public support services to beneficiaries with disabilities who want to start or keep working and to other members of the community.

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An individual who receives either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Benefits Planning Query (BPQY))
The BPQY is a planning tool that can be used by Area Work Incentives Coordinators, Plan for Achieving Self Support (PASS) Cadre employees and Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) projects to provide customized employment services to beneficiaries with disabilities who want to start or keep working. A BPQY provides a snapshot of a beneficiary's current status as stored in the Social Security Administration’s electronic records. It contains comprehensive information about an individual's disability cash benefits, health insurance, medical review schedule, representative payee status and work history. Analysis of an individual's disability and work status is the first step when planning a successful return to work initiative.

Blind Work Expenses (BWE) (SSI)
If you are blind, we do not count any earned income that you use to meet expenses in earning that income when we decide your SSI eligibility and payment amount.

For example, BWEs include: transportation to and from work, income taxes, attendant care services, and service animal expenses. For more information go to:

The Benefits Planning, Assistance and Outreach (BPAO) project was replaced by the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance project (WIPA) in October 2006.

Break-Even Point (SSI)
The dollar amount of total income that will (after applicable deductions are applied) reduce the SSI payment to zero in a given set of case facts. Your break-even point depends on your earned and unearned income, living arrangements, applicable income exclusions, and state supplement, if any. While useful for discussion purposes, this term does not appear in the SSI rules.

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Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administers Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC)
A CWIC is employed by the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) project and works directly with Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities to assist them in their employment efforts. CWICs provide outreach to beneficiaries with disabilities and work incentives planning and assistance.

  • Work in cooperation with Federal, State, private agencies, and nonprofit organizations that serve beneficiaries with disabilities;
  • Conduct outreach to beneficiaries with disabilities (and their families), employment-related organizations, disability service providers, special education transition coordinators, and other groups and individuals who need information about SSA's Work Incentives and the Ticket to Work Program;
  • Screen and refer beneficiaries with disabilities to appropriate Employment Networks based on the beneficiary's expressed needs and types of impairments;
  • Provide general information on the adequacy of health benefits coverage that may be offered by an employer of a beneficiary with a disability and the extent to which other health benefits coverage may be available to that beneficiary in coordination with Medicare and/or Medicaid; and
  • Provide information on the availability of protection and advocacy services for beneficiaries with disabilities and how to access such services.

Continuation of Medicare Coverage (SSDI)
You can receive at least 93 consecutive months of hospital and medical insurance after the trial work period. This provision allows health insurance to continue when you go to work and are engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Continued Medicaid Eligibility
See Medicaid While Working [Section 1619(b)]

Continuing Disability Review (SSDI and SSI)
Our process of obtaining complete current information about your condition and any work activity to decide if your SSDI and/or SSI benefits should continue.

Cost Reimbursement Payment System
The system providing payment from the Social Security Administration to State vocational rehabilitation agencies and alternate participants for reasonable and necessary costs for vocational rehabilitation and other employment support services to SSDI and SSI beneficiaries with disabilities.

Countable Income (SSI)
The amount of money left after we have subtracted all available deductions from your total income. We use this amount to determine your SSI eligibility and payment amounts.

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Deeming (SSI)
Our process of considering some of the income and resources of your parent, or spouse, or sponsor (if you are an alien) to be your income and resources when you are applying for or receiving SSI benefits.

Definition of Disability (SSDI  and SSI)
The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which has lasted or can be expected to last for at least 12 months or can be expected to result in death.

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The Commission promotes equality of opportunity in the workplace and enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
This is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. Congress originally approved the tax credit legislation in 1975 in part to offset the burden of Social Security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. To qualify, taxpayers must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if they did not earn enough money to be obligated to file a tax return.

Employment Network (EN)
A qualified public or private organization that has entered into a contract with SSA to function as an employment network under the Ticket to Work program and assume responsibility for the coordination and delivery of employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, or other support services to beneficiaries who have assigned their Tickets to that employment network.

Employment Plan
An individual work plan under which an employment network (other than a State vocational rehabilitation agency) provides services to a Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income beneficiary with a disability under the Ticket to Work program, or an individualized plan for employment under which a State Vocational Rehabilitation agency provides services.

Employment Supports
Also known as work incentives. Congress developed employment supports to give individuals with disabilities assistance to move from benefit dependence to independence.

Expedited Reinstatement
A qualified individual may request reinstatement of benefits, within 5 years of benefits having stopped, without having to file a new application. Up to 6 months of provisional benefits are available while we make a decision on the request.

Extended Period of Eligibility (SSDI)
During the 36 consecutive months following the trial work period, if you qualify, we may restart your SSDI benefits without a new application, disability determination, or waiting period.

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Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE) (SSDI and SSI)
We deduct the cost of items and services that you need to work because of your impairment (e.g., attendant care services, medical devices, etc.) when we decide if you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. It does not matter if you also need the items for normal daily activities. We can usually deduct the cost of these same items from earned income to figure your SSI payment.

Income (SSI)
SSI income includes:

  • Earned income -- money received from wages, including from a sheltered workshop or work activity center, self-employment earnings, and some royalties and honoraria; and
  • Unearned income -- money received from all other sources, e.g., gifts, interest, Social Security benefits, Veterans benefits, and pensions. Unearned Income also includes "in-kind income" (free food, clothing or shelter) and "deemed income" (some of the income of a spouse, or parent, or sponsor of an alien).

Income Exclusions (SSI)
Generally, if the item received cannot be used as, or to obtain, food, clothing, or shelter, we do not consider it as income. Income exclusions are used to determine countable income.

Earned income exclusions include:

  • The first $65 per month plus one-half of the remaining earnings;
  • Impairment-related work expenses or blind work expenses;
  • Income you set aside or use to pursue a Plan for Achieving Self-Support.

Unearned income exclusions include:

  • The first $20 per month;
  • Income you set aside or use to pursue a Plan for Achieving Self-Support;
  • State or locally funded assistance based on need;
  • Rent subsidies under HUD programs and the value of food stamps;
  • Infrequent or irregularly received income ($20 or less a month).

General earned income exclusion
The first $65 ($85 if you have no income other than earnings) of any monthly earned income plus one-half of remaining earnings.

Individual Employment Plan (IEP)
An intensive service provided through the one-stop delivery system.  Development of a plan to identify the employment goals, appropriate achievement objectives, and appropriate combination of services for the participant to achieve the employment goals.

Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)
A written plan of action which outlines the employment goal, criteria to evaluate progress toward the employment goal and the services to be provided.  It is developed for each individual who is determined to be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services through the state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency . Contact your state VR agency for more information.

Individual Work Plan (IWP)
A required written document signed by an Employment Network (EN) (other than a State Vocational Rehabilitation agency) and a beneficiary, or a representative of a beneficiary, with a Ticket to outline the specific employment services, vocational rehabilitation services and other support services that the EN and beneficiary have determined are necessary to achieve the beneficiary`s stated employment goal.

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Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California, AHCCS in Arizona) (SSI)
Medical coverage provided to a person by the State title XIX program.

Medicaid Protection for People with Disabilities Who Work (SSI)
For people with disabilities who: have earnings that are too high to qualify for Medicaid under current rules; are at least 16, but less than 65 years of age, and meet state resource and income limits, a state may provide Medicaid coverage. A state may also provide Medicaid coverage to these individuals when they lose coverage due to medical improvement, but still have a medically determinable severe impairment.

Medicaid While Working [Section 1619(b)] (SSI)
This is an employment support that is different than Medicaid Protection for People with Disabilities Who Work. Here your Medicaid coverage can continue, even if your earnings alone or in combination with your other income become too high for a SSI cash payment. To qualify you must have been eligible for a SSI cash payment for at least 1 month; still be disabled; still meet all other eligibility rules, including resource test; need Medicaid in order to work and have gross earned income that in insufficient to replace SSI, Medicaid and any publicly funded attendant care.

Medicare (SSDI)
Health insurance program for eligible disabled individuals and individuals age 65 or older usually consisting of:

  • Hospital Insurance under Medicare (Part A);
  • Supplementary Medical Insurance under Medicare (Part B); and
  • Voluntary prescription drug coverage with a Prescription Drug Provider (PDP) under Part D.

Low-income beneficiaries with Medicare can get extra help paying their prescription drug coverage premiums by filing an application with SSA. More information is available at:

Medicare for People With Disabilities Who Work (SSDI)
Some people with disabilities who have returned to work can buy continued Medicare coverage when their premium-free Medicare ends due to work activity. States are required to help pay the hospital insurance premiums for some working individuals with disabilities.

Medical Improvement Expected (MIE)
When we decide you have a disabling impairment, and we also decide that the disabling impairment(s) may improve, we document that your case will need a future review.

Medicaid Infrastructure Grants (MIG)
Section 203 of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 establishes a grant program to support state efforts to enhance employment options for people with disabilities.  CMS is the designated agency with administrative responsibility for this grant program.

Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE)
When we decide you have a disabling impairment and also decide the disabling impairment(s) will not improve.

Medical Improvement Possible (MIP)
When we decide you have a disabling impairment and also decide that the disabling impairment(s) may improve.

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Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy provides national leadership by developing and influencing disability-related employment policy and practice affecting the employment of people with disabilities.

Outcome-Milestone Payment System
The system providing a schedule of payments under the Ticket to Work program to an employment network that includes, in addition to payments during the outcome payment period, payment for completion by a beneficiary of milestones directed toward the goal of permanent employment.

Outcome Payment System
The system providing a payments under the Ticket to Work program to an employment network for each month, up to a total of 60 months, during which Social Security disability benefits and Federal SSI cash benefits are not payable to a beneficiary because of the performance of substantial gainful activity (SGA) or by reason of earnings from work.

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Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS)
Under an approved PASS, you may set aside income and/or resources over a reasonable time which will enable you to reach a work goal to become financially self-supporting. You then can use the income and resources that you set aside to obtain occupational training or education, purchase occupational equipment, establish a business, etc. We do not count the income and resources that you set aside under a PASS when we decide SSI eligibility and payment amount.

PASS Cadre
SSA employees who are specially trained to assist people when developing a Plan to Achieve Self-Support. PASS experts are located across the country, with at least 1 cadre in each of the 10 SSA regions.

Property Essential for Self Support (PESS)
We do not count some or all of certain property necessary for self-support when we apply the SSI resources test. For example, SSA does not count property such as tools or equipment that are used for work. Or, if an individual has a trade or business, SSA does not count property such as inventory.

PABSS Program
An organization in the private or public sector that has entered into a contract to assist SSA in administering the Ticket to Work program.

PABSS Program
Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security Program (PABSS
The Social Security Administration, as authorized by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, awarded Work Assistance Program grants to the designated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) system in each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the P&A system for Native Americans. SSA`s P&A Program, known as Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS), was created to serve SSDI and SSI beneficiaries who want to work despite their continuing disabilities. PABSS grantees will:

  • Assist beneficiaries with disabilities in obtaining information and advice about receiving vocational rehabilitation and employment services; and
  • Provide advocacy or other related services that beneficiaries with disabilities may need to secure or regain gainful employment.

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Red Book
A general reference source about SSDI and SSI employment supports. Published by the Social Security Administration, its purpose is to give a working knowledge of technical provisions so that rehabilitation professionals, advocates and counselors can appropriately advise individuals with disabilities who express an interest in starting or returning to work.

Resources (SSI)
Resources are anything you own, such as a bank account, stocks, business assets, real property, or personal property that you can use for your support and maintenance. We do not count all your resources when we determine your SSI eligibility.

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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose mission it is to focus on building resilience and facilitating recovery for people with, or at risk for, mental or substance use disorders.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
We evaluate the work activity of persons claiming or receiving disability benefits under SSDI, and/or claiming benefits because of a disability (other than blindness) under SSI. Under both programs, we use earnings guidelines to evaluate your work activity to decide whether the work activity is substantial gainful activity and whether we may consider you disabled under the law. While this is only one of the tests used to decide if you are disabled, it is a critical first step in a disability evaluation. (For SGA amounts, visit SGA Page.)

Social Security Disability Insurance authorized under title II of the Social Security Act.

Supplemental Security Income program authorized under title XVI of the Social Security Act.

State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (State VR agency)
The organization in each State, the District of Columbia or U.S. Territory, that is the designated governmental entity responsible for providing vocational rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities residing within its jurisdiction. In some States a separate State Vocational Rehabilitation agency also exists to provide assistance and services to individuals with a visual impairment.

Subsidies and Special Conditions (SSDI and SSI)
Supports you receive on the job that may result in more pay than the actual value of the work you perform. We use only the actual value of the work you perform when we make a SGA decision.

Supports you receive on the job that may result in more pay than the actual value of the work you perform. We use only the actual value of the work you perform when we make a SGA decision. Clarification on subsidies and special conditions.

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Ticket Under the Ticket to Work Program ("Ticket")
A document which provides evidence of the Commissioner`s agreement to pay an employment network or a State vocational rehabilitation agency, to which a disabled beneficiary`s Ticket is assigned, for providing employment services, vocational rehabilitation services, and other support services to the beneficiary.

Ticket to Work Program
The Ticket to Work Program is a voluntary program that offers SSDI and SSI beneficiaries with disabilities a variety of choices in obtaining the support and services they need to help them go to work and achieve their employment goals. If you are eligible and would like to work or increase your current earnings, this program can help you get vocational rehabilitation, training, job referrals, and other ongoing support and services to help you do so.

Timely Progress
The guidelines SSA uses to determine if a beneficiary is making progress toward self-supporting employment.

Trial Work Period (SSDI)
The trial work period is an incentive for the personal rehabilitation efforts of SSDI beneficiaries who work. The trial work period lets you test your ability to work or run a business for at least 9 months and receive full SSDI benefits (no matter how high your earnings are) if you report your work activity and your impairment does not improve.

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Unincurred Business Expenses (SSDI)
Support contributed to your self-employment effort by someone else. If you are self-employed, we deduct unincurred business expenses from earnings when we make a SGA decision.

Using a Ticket
The term used when a beneficiary has assigned a Ticket to an employment network or State vocational rehabilitation agency and is making timely progress toward self-supporting employment.

Unsuccessful Work Attempt (UWA) (SSDI)
An effort to do substantial work (in employment or self-employment) that you stopped or reduced to below the SGA level after a short time (6 months or less). This change must have resulted because of your impairment, or the removal of special conditions related to your impairment that was essential to the further performance of your work. We do not count earnings during an unsuccessful work attempt when we make an SGA decision.

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Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Those services identified in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, that are provided by a State Vocational Rehabilitation agency (VR) in an individualized plan for employment necessary to assist an individual with a disability in preparing for, securing, retaining, or regaining an employment outcome that is consistent with the strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice of the individual.

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Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA)
Public Law 105-220 provides the framework for a national workforce preparation and employment system designed to meet both the needs of businesses and job seekers and those who want to further their careers. A key component of the Act enables customers to easily access the information and services they need through the One-Stop Career Center system.

Work Incentive Liaisons (WIL)
Each local Social Security Administration (SSA) office has a Work Incentive Liaison (WIL) who provides advice and information about SSA's work incentive provisions and employment support programs to individuals with disabilities and outside organizations that serve those with disabilities. Contact your local SSA office for the name and telephone number of this Work Incentive Liaison

Work Incentives
Also known as employment supports. Congress developed employment support to give individuals with disabilities assistance to move from benefit dependence to independence.

Work Incentive Planning and Assistance Program (WIPA) Project
The Social Security Administration awards grants to community-based organizations as established by Section 121 of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act 0f 1999, Public Law 106-170. The purpose of the WIPA project is to disseminate accurate information to SSA beneficiaries with disabilities about work incentives and employment support programs to better enable them to make informed choices about work. Each WIPA project employs Community Work Incentive Coordinators.

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Last reviewed or modified Tuesday Jul 15, 2008
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