PASS and Other Disability Benefits Programs

If you are using a PASS, you may be eligible for other disability benefits programs and work incentives. It’s important to understand how these programs interact with one another, as benefits from one program may impact eligibility for another.

If you have questions, contact a a Benefits Planner for help.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI and PASS are closely linked. In fact, PASS is part of the SSI program. If you’re not already on SSI, you will need to apply for it when you apply for your PASS.

To learn more about SSI, read DB101’s section on SSI or you can go to the Social Security Administration’s website.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Setting up a PASS does not affect your eligibility for SSDI. If you get SSDI cash benefits, you can set aside the majority of those funds in your PASS (unlike SSI benefits).

Note: If you work, you still need to report your wages to your local Social Security office. All SSDI rules for Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and Trial Work Period (TWP) still apply.

CalFresh

Setting aside money in a PASS should not have a negative impact on your eligibility for CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps). In fact, setting up a PASS may help you qualify for the program by lowering your countable income. As with SSI, any income or resources you set aside in a PASS will not be counted when determining your eligibility for CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps).

If you have questions about this, contact your county social services agency.

Section 8

The money you save in a PASS will not be counted when figuring out if you are eligible for Section 8. However, you may need to give your housing worker a letter from your PASS Cadre that explains this exclusion.

Your rent should never go up because you open a PASS. It might go up for other reasons (if your landlord raises the rent, for example), but it should not go up because you set up a PASS.

Individual Development Accounts (IDA)

IDAs are savings accounts that can be used to pay for your first home, higher education, and a small business development.

Each time you make a deposit in your IDA, the IDA program contributes a match to your account. The match may be anywhere from 1 to 4 times the size of the deposit you make. So, if you’re enrolled in an IDA program with a 2:1 match, and you deposit $50 into your account, you will get an additional $100 deposit towards your savings goal.

An IDA and a PASS are both great ways to build savings to pay for a specific goal. An IDA can be part of a PASS plan as long as the goals of both plans are the same. One of the benefits of using an IDA and a PASS together is that it can allow you to set up a non-federally funded IDA as part of the PASS plan without the risk of losing eligibility for the SSI program.

To find an IDA program in your area, see the IDA program directories at the Prosperity Now and the Assets for Independence Resource Center.

To learn more, read the DB101 section on IDAs.

PASS and Other Work Incentives

Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE)

Students under age 22 have a few choices about how to set up a PASS plan. They can put some of their income into a PASS and use their SSI benefits payments to pay for basic living expenses. Or they can also use the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE), which allows them to exclude up to $7,550 in earned income per year, and then add any additional income to their PASS.

Deciding whether or not to use a PASS, the SEIE, or both can be complicated. If you’re under age 22 and thinking about your options, contact a a Benefits Planner.

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs) and Blind Work Expenses (BWEs)

When you are working, you may pay out of pocket for items or services related to your disability. These expenses may be Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs) or Blind Work Expenses (BWEs). Social Security deducts about half of the value of your IRWEs or BWEs from your earned income when calculating your SSI benefits amount.

Many expenses that could be included in your PASS plan may also qualify as an IRWE or BWE. But you cannot use an expense as an IRWE or BWE and also list it as an expense in your PASS. In most cases, you’ll be better off listing an expense as a PASS expense rather than using is as an IRWE or BWE. But we recommend you contact your PASS Cadre before making that decision.

Section 301

Under Section 301 rules, you can continue to get SSI or SSDI benefits, even if Social Security decides that you are no longer disabled, as long as you are participating in a vocational rehabilitation program that is approved by Social Security and expected to help you become self-supporting.

A PASS is a program that is approved under Section 301. So if you open and maintain a PASS plan, you can continue to get SSI or SSDI benefits, even if your condition improves and you no longer meet the Social Security’s criteria for a disability determination.