Did you know?

Iowa WIPA would like to help you make the most out of the Social Security Work Incentives!

Each month we will feature a Work Incentive that we get frequent questions on. This months topic is IRWE (Impairment Related Work Expense).

Because of your disabling impairment, do you have to pay for certain items so you can work?

Did you know, in most cases, Social Security can deduct the out–of–pocket costs of these items, which they call impairment–related work expenses (IRWE), from the amount of earnings they use to figure your SSI benefit.

How do these expenses affect my SSI benefits?

This means that they do not reduce your SSI benefit as much because they do not count all of your earnings.

What are some examples of IRWEs that can be deducted?

If you work, SSA may deduct your out–of–pocket expenses for items such as medicine, medical supplies, medical devices, service animals, and disposable items such as bandages and syringes when figuring the amount of your earned income.

They may also be able to deduct your out–of–pocket expenses for medical services such as doctors visits and some attendant care services charged for preparing you for work, attending to you while you are at work, or getting you to and from work. They may also deduct certain out–of–pocket expenses for transportation and modifications to your home, car, or van to allow you to work.

The expense must not be reimbursed, and must be related to your disability(ies) and needed in order for you to work.

To learn more visit https://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-work-expenses.htm or contact WIPA!

Question:  Can I claim an IRWE for an item I purchased before I started working?

Answer:  Yes, but only if it:

  1. Is a durable item (things that can be used repeatedly), such as wheelchairs, braces, prostheses, work-related equipment, residential modifications, service animals, and vehicle modifications;
  2. Was purchased during the 11 months preceding the month work starts;
  3. Is not leased or rented;
  4. Was paid when the person was disabled (on or after the date of disability onset); and
  5. Meets all other IRWE requirements.

Social Security has a specific process to determine the deductible IRWE amount for durable purchases occurring prior to employment.  Social Security averages the cost over a 12-month period, which begins the first month payment for the item occurred.  Only the amount that is attributed for work months can be deducted as an IRWE.


Delilah paid $3,000 in co-insurance for her new wheelchair in June 2014.  She then began working September 2014.   She meets all the criteria listed above, so let’s think through how much the deductible IRWE amount would be.

Step 1:  Determine the “first month of payment”.  For Delilah that’s June 2014 since that’s when she paid for the wheelchair.

Step 2:  Count out the 12-month period from the first month of payment.  For Delilah that would be June 2014 through May 2015.

Step 3:  Determine the total amount she paid between that first month of payment and the month work started, then divide that total by 12.  Delilah only had one $3,000 payment so we’d divide that by 12, which gives us $250 per month.

Social Security could use $250.00 as an IRWE deduction for each of the twelve months Delilah worked beginning the month she purchased the wheel chair. Delilah started working in September 2014 and worked through May 2015.  If needed, Social Security could deduct $250.00 in IRWE for those 9 months.

Note: Social Security may deduct the cost of durable goods in 1 month or allocated over a 12 consecutive month period, depending on which is more advantageous for the beneficiary.   

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