Social Security Administration's PASS Program

What is a PASS?

  • It is an SSI provision to help individuals with disabilities return to work.
  • If you receive SSI or could qualify for SSI after setting aside income or resources so you can pursue a work goal, you could benefit from a PASS.

How does a PASS help someone return to work?

  • Social Security will base SSI eligibility and payment amounts on income and resources (things of value that the individual owns).
  • PASS lets a disabled individual set aside money and things he or she owns to pay for items or services needed to achieve a specific work goal.
  • The objective of the PASS is to help disabled individuals find employment that reduces or eliminates SSI or SSDI benefits.

How does PASS work?

  • The applicant finds out what training, items, or services they need to reach a work goal.
  • A PASS can include supplies to start a business, school expenses, equipment and tools, transportation, uniforms and other items or services you need to reach your employment goal.
  • The applicant finds out how much these items and services will cost.
  • PASS can help the participant save to pay these costs. PASS lets persons with disabling conditions set aside money for purchases, installment payments and down payments for things like a vehicle, wheelchair, or a computer if needed to reach their work goal.

How do you set up a PASS?

  • Decide on your work goal and determine the items and services necessary to achieve your work goal.
  • You can get help in setting up a plan from a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor; an organization that helps people with disabilities; Benefits Specialists or Protection and Advocacy organizations who have contracts with us; Employment Networks involved in the Ticket to Work program; your local Social Security office; or anyone else willing to help him or her.
  • Contact your local SSA office; SSA work site or third parties shown above to get a PASS form (SSA-545-BK) to complete.
  • Bring or mail it to the Social Security office.
  • Social Security usually approves plans prepared by a VR.
  • If your goal is self-employment, you must also submit a business plan.

What happens to the PASS?

  • Social Security will send the PASS to agency employees who they have trained to work with PASS.
  • A PASS expert works directly with the applicant. The PASS expert looks over the plan to see if the work goal is reasonable.
  • Social Security will review the plan to make sure that the applicant needs the items and services listed on the PASS to achieve his or her work goal and that the items are reasonably priced.
  • If the plan needs changes, the PASS expert discusses the changes with the applicant.
  • If Social Security does not approve the PASS, the applicant can appeal the decision.

Additional resources



Department of Rehabilitation

Employment Services

  • Are you Eligible?
    • Do you have a disability?
    • Do you want to work?
    • Are you having trouble getting or keeping a job because of your disability?
    • Do you need services such as job placement, training, or other job preparation to help you get or keep a job or advance in employment?
  • How to Apply
    • Fill out the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Application (form DR 222)  and return it to your local office. Obtain an application by contacting your local office, printing the application from our website, or visiting an  America’s Job Center. DOR will contact you for your intake appointment once your application has been received. At your first appointment you will meet with a member of the DOR vocational rehabilitation team to discuss your eligibility and how DOR may assist you in maximizing your employment opportunities.
  • What to bring to your first appointment
    • Any documents you have about your disability.
    • Recent records and benefit letters (i.e.; Social Security Administration, Ticket to Work Program, or another referral)
    • A list of names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, professionals, and organizations you have consulted about your disability.
  • Ticket to Work Program
    • Work Incentives Planners (WIPs) are available throughout DOR’s offices statewide to provide intensive, individualized one-on-one WIP Services to help consumers understand how their social security benefits will be affected if they return to work.
    • Roles of the WIP
      • Assist consumers in understanding the impact of employment on cash and health benefits
      • Develop accurate and personalized Benefits Analyses and Work Incentive Plans
      • Explain and outline viable options
      • Provide recommendations on appropriate work incentives
      • Promote successful employment outcomes
      • Assist with wage reporting and benefits management
      • Coordinate referrals to Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) projects and/or Employment Networks (ENs) at DOR case closure
    • Eligibility and Enrollment
      • Current recipients of SSI and/or SSDI; and
      • A consumer of DOR who is in Job Ready status
      • Intend to obtain competitive employment in an integrated setting above SGA-level earnings; and
      • Wish to receive WIP Services through informed choice
      • Agree to remain in communication with the WIP throughout the job search process and up to case closure.

Learn about Ticket to Work

The general goal of the Ticket to Work (TTW) Program is to expand the types of service providers that are available to those individuals between ages 18-64 who are entitled to Social Security benefits based on disability (SSDI) and for those who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on disability or blindness.

Please call your local DOR office for more information.

Workability III

Established in 1989, WorkAbility III at the San Diego Community College District is a program dedicated to providing vocational services to students with disabilities. In partnership with the California Department of Rehabilitation, WorkAbility III is a part of a larger program established to assist students who are attending classes within specific California Community Colleges.

The San Diego Community College WorkAbility III program provides guidance to students and helps them acquire the tools necessary to obtain successful employment. Our goal is to teach students the skills that will help them develop meaningful careers throughout their lives.

To access WorkAbility III's services in the San Diego area, an individual must be a client of the Department of Rehabilitation and a student attending classes within the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD).

The San Diego Community College District includes the following campuses:

  • Colleges
    • City
    • Mesa
    • Miramar
  • Continuing Education
    • Cesar Chavez
    • Continuing Education @ Mesa
    • Continuing Education @ Miramar
    • Educational Cultural Complex (ECC)
    • Mid City
    • North City
    • West City

Please view the Online Orientation Presentation to learn more about the Workability III program, eligibility requirements, services and frequently asked questions.

For additional questions or to inquire directly about the program, please contact the WorkAbility III Coordinator, Jamila DeCarli at (619) 736-8409.

Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA)

Disability Rights California’s WIPA Project offers free individualized work incentives counseling to eligible people who live in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties.

Eligibility for our Services
Individuals with disabilities who are at least ages 14 years old and have not yet reached retirement age, and are currently receiving benefits based on a disability:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB)
  • Disabled Widow(er) Benefits (DWB)
  • Cash benefits have been suspended recently due to earned income

And meet one of the following criteria:

  • Currently working or self-employed
  • Looking for work
  • Decided to pursue work

If you meet our eligibility criteria, WIPA can empower you with the knowledge you need take the next step toward your employment goal.

Several public benefits have work incentives which encourage employment. These work incentives can be confusing or difficult to understand. WIPA can help you understand them.

The goal of the WIPA Project is to enable beneficiaries with disabilities to make an informed choice about work. Informed choice means knowing all of your options so you can take the next step toward your employment goal.

To contact a Community Work Incentives Coordinator call (888) 768-7058 in San Diego, Riverside or Imperial Counties. 

Click to view the WIPA brochure: WIA Brochure

ABLE Account and Your Benefits

ABLE accounts encourage and assist individuals with disabilities and their families in saving private funds to help maintain health, independence, and quality of life and provide secure funding for disability-related expenses.

These accounts are tax-exempt and a qualified ABLE program established and maintained by a state, or by an agency of a state, pays for the following type of expenses: expenses for education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, and other expenses. Your Medicaid and Supplemental Security Benefits are not cut due to your opening an ABLE account, except for certain distributions related to some housing expenses under the Supplemental Security Income program and for amounts in an ABLE account exceeding $100,000.

Able Now
IRS and Able Accounts
United Spinal and Able-Accounts
Cal Able

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