Find out how the Student Earned Income Exclusion may help students who receive SSI save money as they go to school or receive job training. Read today’s Work Incentives Wednesdays blog post to learn more!

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Work Incentives Wednesdays: Making the Grade at School and Work

May 24, 2017

In this month's Work Incentives Wednesdays, we talk about the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE). This Work Incentive is for students who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and want to work to earn more money while they attend classes or job training. It can help you keep your SSI benefits as you move toward financial independence.

What is the Student Earned Income Exclusion?

Education and job training may help you achieve your work goals, but they can also be expensive.

If you are a student who receives SSI benefits and you are working, Social Security will deduct part of your earnings from your countable income. The SEIE lowers your countable income to help you keep part or all of your SSI cash benefit.

What does "regularly attending school" mean?

"Regularly attending school" means you take one or more courses of study and that you:

  • Attend college or university classes for at least 8 hours per week; or
  • Attend school, grades 7 through 12, for at least 12 hours per week; or
  • Participate in job training at least 12 hours per week; or
  • Participate in a training course which includes shop practice at least 15 hours per week
  • Receive education or tutoring in a home-school situation in grades 7-12 for at least 12 hours per week, in accordance with your state law or the law that applies where you reside.

You may also qualify for the SEIE for fewer education and training hours than listed above if there are reasons beyond your control, such as an illness.

Are you eligible?

To qualify for the SEIE, you must:

  • Receive SSI benefits
  • Be under the age 22
  • Regularly attend school, college or job training to prepare for work

If you have a disability that requires you to stay at home, you can qualify for the SEIE if you have an at-home training with a tutor from a school or you take classes online. When you find a job, and initially report your earnings to Social Security, it's a good idea to be proactive and report that you're a student. If you choose not to, Social Security will verify your student status during your SSI re-determination process. This usually takes place approximately once a year, but may happen more or less often, depending on your circumstances.

You remain eligible for the SEIE even while classes are not in session. If you plan to and do return to classes after the break, the SEIE can still be applied to your earnings.

How does the SEIE work?

If you qualify as an eligible student, Social Security will apply the SEIE when calculating your SSI benefit amount. In 2017, the SEIE can exclude up to $1,790 each month, with a maximum of $7,200 for the year.

Let's take a look at an example to see how the SEIE can affect an eligible student's SSI benefit each month.

Mary receives SSI benefits and meets the criteria as a student. She starts working in January 2017 and earns $2,000 per month. This is the only income she receives, and she has no unearned income. When Social Security calculates her countable earnings, they apply the SEIE before any other SSI income exclusions. Mary's countable income follows:

January, February, March, April:

$2,000.00  Gross Earnings
$1,790.00  Minus SEIE (Maximum monthly is $1,790.00)
$210.00  
$20.00  Minus General Exclusion
$190.00  
$65.00  Minus Earned Income Exclusion
$125.00  
$62.60  Minus one-half remainder
$62.50  Countable Income
Visit www.ssa.gov to learn more about Income Exclusions for the SSI program

By applying the SEIE and other exclusions, Social Security only counts $62.50 of the $2,000 Mary earned when they figure her SSI payment.

By April, Mary has used $7,160 of the yearly $7,200 SEIE amount. If she continues to work in May, only $40 of the SEIE remains. After using this, Mary is still eligible for the General Exclusion and Earned Income Exclusion, but Social Security will no longer deduct the SEIE from her countable earnings.

May:

 $2,000.00  Gross Earnings
$40.00  Minus SEIE (Maximum monthly is $1,790.00)
$1,960.00  
$20.00  Minus General Exclusion
$1,940.00  
$65.00  Minus Earned Income Exclusion
$1,875.00  
$937.50  Minus one-half remainder
$937.50  Countable Income
Visit www.ssa.gov to learn more about Income Exclusions for the SSI program

SEIE and other Work Incentives

In many cases, the SEIE allows students to test their ability to work while keeping most, and sometimes all, of their SSI check. To learn more about the SEIE, check out Understanding the Student Earned Income Exclusion Factsheet (PDF).

The SEIE is just one of many Social Security Work Incentives that help you earn your way toward financial independence. Learn more about Work Incentives that may apply to you if you receive SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by visiting www.ssa.gov/work and reading Social Security's Red Book.

About Ticket to Work

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) 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

To learn more about the Ticket program, visit www.ssa.gov/work. You can also 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.