Blind Work Expenses (BWE) are work-related expenses paid for by an SSI beneficiary that has been certified blind by Social Security. The cost of a BWE can be subtracted from countable earnings when calculating an SSI benefits check.
Blind Work Expenses include:
- Guide dogs
- Transportation to/from work
- Federal and state income taxes
- Meals at work
A BWE deduction must meet the following criteria. Expenses must be:
- necessary for the person to work;
- paid for by the person and not be reimbursable from other sources;
- paid in a month in which the person is working; and
How do BWEs affect SSI benefits?
Deducting the cost of the BWE from monthly gross wages reduces the amount of countable earnings used to figure the SSI check due. The full cost of the BWE can usually be recovered by the beneficiary in the form of a higher SSI payment.
Example: David previously received an SSI benefit check of $710 per month in 2013. After beginning a part-time job, he is earning $500 a month in work income. After applying the SSI Income Formula, his SSI benefit is adjusted to $502.50 a month. This gives him a total monthly income of $1002.50 a month.
David pays $200 a month in co-payments for physical therapy. After getting these expenses approved as an BWE by Social Security and applying the SSI Income Formula, his SSI benefit is instead adjusted to $702.50 a month. This gives him a total monthly income of $1202.50.
Refer to SSI Income Formula for more information.
How do BWEs differ from IRWEs?
Blind Work Expenses (BWE) differ from Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE) in two ways:
- The expenses do not have to be related to an impairment. A variety of work related costs can be deducted, including transportation costs, income taxes and meals eaten at work.
- BWE expenses can be fully recovered. Only half of an IRWE expense can be recovered.
For an expense that can be counted as an IRWE or BWE, it is always more advantageous to have it counted as a BWE.