Supplemental Security Income recipients are required to report their income each month. However, in my experience as a Social Security Disability lawyer, it is not uncommon for people to report earnings only to find that the field office doesn’t show that they did. A more reliable system is to report income through your telephone or mobile device. Here's how you can take advantage of these services.
SSITWR vs SSIMWR: What is the difference?
The telephone and mobile reporting systems have similar names but different methods. The Supplemental Security Income Telephone Wage Reporting (SSITWR) method is an automated, toll-free system which SSI recipients can connect to with a phone call.
Supplemental Security Income Mobile Wage Reporting (SSIMWR) is done through an app that can be installed on both Apple and Android devices.
Which method is best for me?
The best method for you is the one that fits your lifestyle. It may be more convenient to use one method or the other depending on your comfort level with mobile devices versus placing a telephone call. Note that not every SSI beneficiary can qualify for these services.
How do I get started?
To participate in telephone or mobile wage reporting, you will need to contact your local Social Security office to see if these are available options for you. If so, your local office will give you documentation that guides you through the process.
What happens if I don't report my wages while receiving SSI?
Supplemental Security Income benefits are affected by earnings. The maximum SSI benefit for 2018 is $750 per month, up from $735 in 2017. Your SSI benefit may be less than the maximum, depending on your countable income. If your countable income is over the allowable limit, you will no longer be eligible to receive SSI benefits at all. Read more about how Social Security counts your income here.
Because benefits are affected by other income, it is very important to be organized and up front with Social Security about any changes in your income that could affect your benefits. Failure to report your wages each month could result in an overpayment leading to penalties of $25, $50, $100 or more. See this article for a more detailed explanation of how overpayments and penalties are handled.
Willful attempts to defraud Social Security through SSI have been met with huge penalties in the thousands, as in the 2012 case of a woman in Washington state who hid the fact that she was married in order to keep receiving benefits.
What else do I need to report to Social Security while receiving SSI?
Wages are not the only change that SSI beneficiaries need to report. Changes in living arrangements, marital status, and resources should all be reported to Social Security. For a full list of what changes should be reported to Social Security, click here.
I don't want to report my wages to Social Security because I need my benefits to help me go back to work. What should I do?
The Social Security Administration offers the PASS program, or Plan to Achieve Self-Support, to help people with disabilities make a smooth transition from receiving SSI to going back to work. Participation in the PASS program allows you to legally set aside money and resources in order to achieve your employment goals. Information on how to set up a PASS plan can be found here.
The official pamphlet for Supplemental Security Income recipients can be found here (PDF).
Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability lawyer.