Blind Work Expenses (BWE)

Those who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to blindness are generally eligible to receive Blind Work Expenses as an incentive to find and keep gainful employment. Blind Work Expenses allow you to deduct many work related expenses when declaring income for SSI. This results in a lower countable income, which in turn results in a higher SSI benefit.

In order to qualify for SSI benefits as a disabled individual, you must demonstrate significant financial need – described by the Social Security Administration as having “limited income and resources” – in addition to a disability that prevents them from working.

In order to qualify for BWE, you must receive Social Security Disability as a result of your blindness. The expenses you are able to deduct, however, do not necessarily have to be directly related to your blindness or other Social Security Disability related condition. In fact, you can deduct most work related expenses. This includes, but is not limited to, reasonable deductions for:

  • Federal, state, and local income taxes.

  • Transportation expenses (i.e., taxi, bus, etc.).

  • Sensory or visual aids.

  • Leader dog and all associated expenses (food, veterinarian bills, etc.).

  • Braille translation of work materials.

  • Lunch money.

  • Union or Association dues.

  • Social Security taxes.

  • Professional training.

  • Training to use work related devices.

  • Medical supplies or devices deemed necessary for your job performance.

If you are blind and receive Social Security Disability benefits, you may still continue to take all of the standard deductions other SSI recipients can claim. Your Blind Work Expenses do not reduce your other deductions in any way. Your SSI payments will be based upon half of your earned income, just as they are for other SSI recipients. The only difference is that you are also able to deduct BWE from your countable income for the purposes of calculating Social Security Disability SSI payments.

There are very few legally blind Social Security Disability benefits recipients who don’t qualify for Blind Work Expenses if they are working and earning income. Contact the Social Security Administration regarding which expenses you can deduct.