Seeing eye dogI have effectively used Blind Work Expenses off and on for the past eight years. I first discovered Blind Work Expenses in 2006. At the time, I was unaware of Social Security’s Work Incentives, and was also unaware of the correct way to report my wages. As a result of this, I earned wages that were never reported to Social Security, which resulted in an overpayment. Unsure of what to do, I brought the matter up with some colleagues and friends whom I looked up to on matters of employment and Social Security benefits. I was told about Blind Work Expenses, so I contacted my local Social Security Office to inquire about the Blind Work Expense forms. To my surprise and delight, I was able to claim the money I had spent on dog food for my guide dog, the cost of my bus pass, money I had spent on lunches while at work, and money I had spent on technology that helped me complete job duties. I claimed these items for each month for which I had worked, which drastically reduced the amount of the overpayment. I vowed to myself to, in the future, always report my wages to Social Security regardless of how much I was making or how much I was receiving in Social Security Benefits at the time. The idea of owing the government money was terrifying, and I never, ever wanted to let it to happen again. However, I also knew that I needed to earn wages either in addition to, or instead of receiving SSI benefits to make ends meet. Living on SSI, especially in California where the costs of living are exponentially high, would have been impossible.

I have used Blind Work Expenses off and on for the past eight years, whenever it has been relevant to my wages and employment situation. One thing I truly appreciate about Blind Work Expenses is that it really helps take the stress out of wage reporting. There have been numerous times where my income and expenses have fluctuated month-to-month, and I really like that Blind Work Expenses are based on expenses you claim each month rather than a generalization of how much you spend on expenses throughout the year. If you are a person with a visual disability in pursuit of employment goals, I strongly encourage you to look into the possibility of utilizing Blind Work Incentives as a way to maximize your income while concurrently earning wages and receiving SSI benefits.

-Nicona, Placement Specialist at PolicyWorks, Inc.

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Advice From a Young Professional

The Basics

Blind Work Expenses are itemized deductions you can claim each month that you work, which will allow you to keep more of your benefits while you are working. The items you claim do not need to be directly related to your blindness, but they do need to be related to your work. You may claim anything you need that makes it possible to effectively complete your job duties.

Examples of Blind Work Expenses include:

  • guide dog expenses such as food and grooming costs,
  • low vision aides such as magnifiers or glasses,
  • lunches you purchase while at work, child care expenses,
  • professional association fees,
  • technology that enables you to complete job duties,
  • taxes,
  • union fees,
  • attendant services,
  • transportation costs,
  • and anything else you feel contributes to your ability to work.