A woman pushes a wheelchair a disabled senior sits in

Impairment-related work expenses (IRWE) are out-of-pocket costs that workers with disabilities incur due to spending money on products and services they need to perform their work duties effectively. Some examples of IRWE include essential medical services and devices, transportation costs, and expenses associated with the acquisition and care of service animals. The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows a disabled worker to deduct these expenses from his or her gross income. Consequently, these expenses may affect a worker’s disability benefits eligibility.

Understanding impairment-related Work Expenses

For a product or service to be classified as an IRWE, it must meet the following conditions:

  • It should be a must-have for a worker to perform his or her duties
  • A physical or mental impairment makes it a must-have
  • The worker bears the full cost. Payment through other sources like medical insurances disqualifies it as an IRWE
  • The cost is within the standard charge range for that product or service where the worker resides.

Examples of IRWE

Medical Services and Devices

This category consists of diagnostic procedures, prescribed medicines, and treatments that manage a disabled worker’s condition, enabling him or her to work. It also includes medical devices like pacemakers, braces, and wheelchairs.

Transportation Expenses

This category features expenses associated with modifying a vehicle to allow a disabled worker to commute comfortably. Other transport expenses are taxi and ride-hailing transportation services that the worker uses due to the disabling condition limiting his or her usage of public transportation.

Service Animals

Expenses accrued after a disabled worker acquires a guide dog or another animal to guide him or her in navigating barriers to work are also part of IRWE. These expenses include training, animal food, licenses, and veterinary support.

A social security disability attorney can evaluate a disabled worker’s expenses to determine whether they meet the criteria for IRWE.

How IRWE Affects Social Security Benefits Eligibility

SSA, through a raft of incentive measures to support disabled workers to return to work, permits SSDI and SSI beneficiaries to deduct IRWE from their gross income. The deductions help in the determination of the worker’s disability benefits eligibility.

Workers with disabilities can still work while also under Social Security disability programs. Disabled workers earning above $1,310 per month and $2,190 for the blind might have their disability claims denied. The SSA can also stop benefits a worker is already receiving if his or her income increases past the cap.