Picture of a calculator and coinsWage reporting can play a major role in avoiding overpayments from Social Security. Read our Money Mondays blog post to learn the truth about common wage reporting myths and find out what you need to do to avoid overpayments.

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Money Mondays: Wage Reporting - Myths, Tips and Ticket to Work

May 15, 2017

By Guest Blogger Sarah Geller of Employment Resources, Inc.

Picture of a calculator and coinsIf you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may wonder how work and earning a paycheck could affect your benefits. Or, maybe you have heard about people who work and later receive a notice from Social Security that they have been overpaid.  

Overpayments happen when Social Security pays a beneficiary more than they are eligible to receive. In many, but not all cases, people are overpaid because they fail to report their earnings from work or don’t report them on-time. If you receive SSI and have under-estimated your earnings, that can cause an overpayment. And, overpayments sometimes happen because Social Security cannot act on the changes you report in time to stop your payment or adjust your payment amount. 

If you receive SSI, there are some causes for overpayments that aren’t related to work. They include changes in living arrangements, changes in marital status, and unearned income you receive. Unearned income can be worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and child-support payments. With SSI, there are limits to the amount of resources (things you own and can turn into cash); for one person, the limit is $2,000, and for a couple the limit is $3,000. Going over those limits can also cause overpayments.

Let’s talk about working and reporting your wages to avoid overpayments and where to get help if you need it. Social Security benefits are complex, and so are the rules about work. Work affects Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits differently. I’ve talked with many beneficiaries over the years who have misunderstood their reporting responsibilities and who continue to have questions about reporting their wages.

 These are the most common myths I hear:

“I only need to report my work to Social Security if I earn over a certain amount.”

If you receive Social Security disability benefits and you’re working, you should be reporting your work earnings regularly, especially when the earnings level changes. Many beneficiaries I speak to don’t understand how and when to report their earnings or the Work Incentives that may apply to them. To help avoid overpayments and have the correct Work Incentives and exclusions applied, always report your earnings and any Work Incentives you have used at the same time.

For updated information about reporting your work and wages using a my Social Security account, check out Update! Social Security's Online Wage Reporting Service

“Social Security knows I’m working because I’m paying Social Security taxes.”

It is true that Social Security often learns that a beneficiary is working through information sharing with other state and federal agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service. However, it can take time for this information to show up on your record and for Social Security to have time to act on it. In addition, the information Social Security gets from these sources does not replace your need to report. Instead, the earnings reported by federal and state sources simply cause Social Security to contact you and ask you to report earnings and Work Incentives at that time. In the meantime, you could be receiving payments you are not eligible to receive. You can report your wages by mailing or bringing pay stubs to your local Social Security office.

If you are self-employed, you will report your earnings when you complete your tax return, since Social Security needs to see copies of your Federal Income Tax Forms Schedule SE, Schedule C, Schedule C–EZ, or Schedule F. Whenever you report your earnings, you should keep a record of what you reported, keep the documentation, and keep the receipt Social Security gives you for your records.

You can find an office near you by visiting the Social Security office locator.

“My Employment Network/vocational rehabilitation counselor is reporting my work earnings to Social Security”

It is your responsibility to report work earnings. Never assume an agency or another person is reporting your work earnings for you.

“I’m in the Ticket to Work program, so work doesn’t affect my benefits.”

Participating in the Ticket to Work (Ticket) program and using Work Incentives does not change the fact that earnings may affect your benefits. The Ticket program can provide you access to employment services and medical review protection. Don’t let the fear of overpayments discourage your work efforts. While there are other situations that can lead to overpayment, following the recommended guidelines for reporting work can help you while you transition to the workplace.

If you’re working or about to start a job, a Benefits Counselor can talk with you about the reporting requirements for the benefits you receive. They can also explain the Work Incentives available to you as a Social Security beneficiary. Throughout the country, Work Incentives Planning and Assistance programs provide benefits counseling to Social Security and SSI beneficiaries going to work. Also, Many Employment Networks (ENs) in the Ticket program have Benefits Counselors on staff.

To find a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program that serves your area, or an EN with a Benefits Counselor, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or 866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Understanding how working affects your benefits and how to report your earnings can make a big difference in your successful entry or re-entry to work.

Additional resources

About the guest blogger

Sarah Geller works at Employment Resources Inc. (ERI) as the Ticket to Work program manager. Prior to joining ERI, Sarah worked as an intake case management specialist for the Wisconsin-Works (W2) program in Milwaukee. She is passionate about helping individuals move forward with their employment goals. She holds a B.S. degree in Human Development and Family Studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

About Ticket to Work

Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work.
The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce. Learn more about the Ticket program at www.ssa.gov/work.

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