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What is the Social Security PASS program?

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration wants to see that you either cannot work, or that your earning capacity is so low that you cannot financially afford your most basic needs. Generally speaking, if you can work, you lose your right to SSD benefits. However, that is not always the case.

Per an SSA publication titled “Working While Disabled: How We Can Help,” the administration has special programs that make it possible for claimants to work while still receiving benefits. One of those programs is the Plan to Achieve Self-Support, or “PASS.”

The purpose of PASS

The SSA recognizes that, in many cases, it takes money, training and other resources for beneficiaries to achieve their work goals. It also recognizes that its strict eligibility requirements may interfere with one’s ability to access those items and comfortably work toward said goals. To help persons reach their goals and reduce or eliminate their dependence on SSD, the administration developed PASS.

If you enroll in the PASS program, you can work with peace of mind that your earnings will not affect your eligibility. However, to qualify, you must show that you plan to use your earnings to work toward your objectives. Examples of acceptable ways to use your wages are as follows:

  • To pay for tuition, school fees, books and supplies
  • To get on the job training
  • To pay for childcare
  • To save for future transportation
  • To employ resume writing or job coaching services
  • To purchase uniforms, equipment, safety gear or special clothing

For an item or service to qualify under PASS, you will need to demonstrate how it will help you reach your goals. For example, if you want to become a graphic designer, you may need a degree. If you want to work in retail, you may need on-the-job training.

Setting up a plan

To continue to receive benefits while you work toward your goals you will need to apply for a Plan and have the SSA approve it. To set up a Plan, you must submit an application in writing. Your application must include a strategy detailing how, exactly, you plan to become financially independent. The Plan should specify your work goal, the steps you will need to take to reach your goal, how long you anticipate the plan taking, what items or services you anticipate needing and the estimated cost of each, how much money you will need to set aside each month to access those items or services, and how you plan to keep your PASS money separate from other funds you have.