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Funding Assistive Technology for Work: Social Security Programs

So you found a device which will help you do what you want! Now, how to get it? It is not ever a simple answer as there are many things to consider such as: the way you plan to use assistive technology; the type of equipment or device you need; your personal resources such as income and expenses; and the availability of funds at the various resources.

The Michigan Assistive Technology Program and UCP Michigan’s Assistive Technology Loan Fund have used information from other state technology programs (notably the STAR program in Minnesota) and our combined experience to provide an online funding strategy. The funding strategy outlines factors to consider when thinking about obtaining assistive technology. The first steps, 1 through 3, focus on determining what assistive technology you need, while steps 4 through 7 walk through identifying costs, vendors and resources. The concluding steps, 8 and 9, discuss receiving a funding response and filing an appeal if needed.

The purpose of the funding strategy is to help you think broadly and creatively about how to identify the assistive technology you need and the funding to purchase it.Some of the funding sources outlined in the document are notoriously underutilized. One example of this is the Social Security work incentives programs, most notably Plans for Achieving Self Sufficiency (PASS) and Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE).

A Plan for Achieving Self Sufficiency (PASS) is a work incentive that lets you use your own income or assets to help you reach your work goals. For example, you could set aside money to go to school to get specialized training for a job or to start a business. A plan is meant to help you get items, services, or skills you need to reach your goals. This can include the Assistive Technology you need! Best of all, the money, saved in a separate bank account designated for the PASS, is disregarded when Social Security is determining your monthly benefit amount.

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE) are expenses that you pay out of pocket, that are related to work and your disability, and can be verified with a receipt. Medical devices, home modifications, vehicle modifications and other assistive technology used in the workplace can all be considered for IRWE. However, you must always ensure that the Social Security Administration approves your expense as an IRWE before you can utilize it as a work incentive. Like the PASS Plan, the cost of your Impairment Related Work Expenses is not considered when Social Security is determining your monthly benefit amount.

How do you know if you are eligible to use Social Security work incentives? You could always visit your local office or consult the Social Security Red Book of Employment Supports, yet there is an even more dynamic, interactive way to understand the impact that income from employment will have on your state (i.e. Medicaid) and Federal benefits (i.e. SSDI). The benefits calculators online at Michigan Disability Benefits 101 were designed for Social Security beneficiaries living in Michigan. By anonymously (no name, Social Security number required) inputting some information about your age, living situation, social security benefits, and work situation (either current employment, or employment you would like to explore in the future) these calculators will determine how the particular employment scenario will impact your state and federal benefits like SSI/SSDI, Medicare/Medicaid, food stamps, and state supplement payments. In addition, these calculators will determine which work incentive programs may apply in your particular situation. If you would like more information about a certain program or term, you simply click the link to learn more. If you are in school, or are preparing to transition from school to work, the School to Work calculator was especially designed for you, as certain rules and programs are only available to students and young adults.

Whether you’re in the market for an assistive technology device or a modified vehicle, The Michigan Assistive Technology Program’s funding strategy can help guide you in the right direction for funding. Do you know of a funding source not mentioned in our AT Directory? Let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

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The contents of this web page were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.