PASS and PESS are SSI work incentives — rules that determine how your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will be affected when you prepare for and go to work. They are designed to help you enter or reenter the workforce, and can give you some of the support you need as you move from benefit dependency to increased self-sufficiency. 

Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS)

What is PASS?

It is an SSI provision to help individuals with disabilities return to work.

PASS is a program that allows you to set aside income and/or resources to help you reach a work goal. Your goal must be a job that will produce sufficient earnings to reduce your dependency on Social Security and SSI payments. PASS lets a disabled individual set aside money and/or things he or she owns to pay for items or services needed to achieve a specific work goal. Examples of things you could set aside money for are education, vocational training, and starting a business.

Social Security will not count the income that you set aside under your PASS when determining your SSI payment amount. Further, they do not count the resources that you set aside under your PASS when determining your initial and continuing eligibility for SSI. Therefore, a PASS can help you establish or maintain SSI eligibility, and can increase your SSI payment amount.

How will a PASS affect my SSI benefit?

If SSA approves your PASS, we will not count the money you spend on your plan when we determine your eligibility for SSI. If you are already eligible for SSI, this will increase your SSI benefit, which will replace all of the money you spend on your PASS. 

Who can have a PASS?

You can, if:

  • you want to work;
  • you get SSI (or can qualify for SSI) because of disability or blindness ; and
  • you have income and/or resources to use for a work goal.

How do I set up a PASS?

The info needed by the SSA is submitted in writing on PASS Application Form, SSA- 545-BK. This form is available from your local Social Security office or from any PASS Expert. It is also available on line at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/wi/pass.htm

The 15-page form includes instructions for completion. You will be asked to provide:

  • a specific work goal that you have a reasonable chance of achieving;
  • a reasonable time frame, with starting and ending dates, and designated milestones; and
  • you can write your plan yourself, or get expenses that are necessary to achieve the work goal.

Who can help me set up a PASS?

You can get a PASS Specialist’s telephone number by calling our toll-free number 1-800-772- 1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and asking for a PASS Specialist’s number or by visiting our website at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/wi/passcadre.htm

Property Essential to Self-Support (PESS)

What is PESS?

The Social Security Administration does not count some resources that are essential to your means of self-support when they decide your initial and continuing eligibility for SSI.

What is not counted?

  • We do not count your property if you use it in a trade or business (for example, inventory orgoods) or personal property you use for work as an employee (for example, tools or equipment). Other use of the item(s) does not matter.
  • We do not count up to $6,000 of equity value of non-business property that you use to produc goods or services essential to daily activities. An example is land you use to produce vegetables or livestock solely for consumption by your household.
  • We do not count up to $6,000 of the equity value of non-business income-producing property if the property yields an annual rate of return of at least 6 percent. An example is a rental property.
  • You must be using the property we are excluding under the PESS provision for your self-support activities. If you are not currently using this property because of circumstances beyond your control, you must expect to start using it again within a reasonable period of time, usually 12 months.
  • We do not consider liquid resources, for example, stocks, bonds, or notes as PESS, unless you use them as part of a trade or business.
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Author: Charles Christiansen; SCORE Counselor             Revised & Updated 12/19/12