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The Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE): A Special Work Incentive for Students Up to Age 22

If a person is under age 22 and regularly attends school, the SSI program will not count up to $1,870 of gross earned income per month (up to a maximum of $7,550 per year) when SSI calculates the monthly payment amount.  These 2019 figures are adjusted each year based on the cost-of-living.

“Regularly attending school” means taking one or more courses and attending classes:

  • In a college or university for at least 8 hours a week; or
  • In grades 7-12 for at least 12 hours a week; or
  • In a training course to prepare for employment for at least 12 hours a week (15 hours a week if the course involves shop practice); or 
  • For less time for reasons, such as an illness that are beyond the student's control.
  • Online students meet this requirement if the online courses involve grades 7-12, a college or university, or a government agency and the online school meets the state law requirements where is it located.

Home-schooled students can meet the “regularly attending school” test if:

  • When home schooled by choice:
    • Instruction is in grades 7-12 at least 12 hours per week; and
    • Instruction meets the home-school standards of the student’s state of residence.
  • When home schooling is because of a disability which interferes with school attendance:
    • Instruction can be in grades 7-12, through a college or university, or through a government program; and
    • There is a home visitor or instructor who directs the study.

SEIE Example:  Roberto, age 18, gets SSI of $771 per month.  He just graduated from high school and will start attending a community college program full time in September.  During July and August, before starting the program, he works and earns $1,285 gross per month. Roberto qualifies for the SEIE because he is under age 22 and regularly attends school.  All of his monthly wages for the two summer months will be excluded and not counted by the SSI program (since they are less than $1,870 per month).  This means Roberto’s SSI payment will remain at $771 per month.

If Roberto was not a student:  If Roberto had dropped out of school, $600 of his wages would have counted each month and his monthly SSI payment would be reduced to $171 ($771 – 600).  Roberto gains an extra $1,200 for the two summer months by deciding to continue with his education.

Getting the SSI Program to Approve the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE)

SSI recipients are most likely to get an SEIE approved if they put together a packet of information for the SSI program staff that establishes eligibility for the SEIE.

Get the SEIE eligibility packet to local Social Security office’s Work Incentives Liaison (WIL) or to the Claims Representative Assigned to the Beneficiary

  • Every Social Security office should have a WIL, a person with expertise on Social Security and SSI work incentives.
  • In the local Social Security office where the SSI beneficiary is served, a Claims Representative will be assigned for the beneficiary.
  • The beneficiary should go to the Social Security office in person and first seek to give the SEIE packet to the WIL.  If it cannot be delivered to the WIL, ask that it be given to the Claims Representative assigned to the case.
  • If possible, give the SEIE packet to the WIL or Claims Representative during a face-to-face meeting.

What should be included in the SEIE packet?

  • A copy of the SSI policies governing the SEIE (preferred).  Or references to the two SEIE policies, POMS SI 00820.510, https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0500820510 and POMS SI 00501.020, https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0500501020.
  • A statement that you are under age 22 (Social Security will have a record of your age).
  • Proof that you are attending a school program or vocational training program that meets the “regularly attending school” requirements.  This could be a school schedule, letter of acceptance, recent grade transcripts, or a letter from the school/training program verifying your attendance.
  • Recent paystubs that show how much you are earning.
  • Anything else that the WIL or Claims Representative specifically requests.
  • You should also consider including the Print and Go Tip Sheet from this Toolkit, “The Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE):  A Special Work Incentive for Students Up to Age 22.”

Following Up on the SEIE approval request

  • If you have not heard about the SEIE approval and two weeks have passed since you provided the SEIE packet to the WIL or Claims Representative, you should follow up.
  • First, attempt to call the WIL or Claims Representative.
  • If you cannot reach the WIL or Claims Representative, go to your local Social Security office and ask to speak to one of them.
  • If two more weeks have passed and there is still no answer, repeat these steps.
  • If a month or more has passed and there is still no answer, go to the local Social Security office and ask to speak to the supervisor.  Explain to the supervisor what you have done to date.

If you have a Work Incentives Counselor, they may be able to assist with the follow up.

  • The Work Incentives Counselor may have a regular working relationship with the WIL and will know how best to approach them to get the SEIE approved.
  • Free Work Incentives Counseling (often called benefits counseling or benefits planning) will be available in all areas of the country through the Social Security-funded Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) projects.
  • To find a WIPA program in your area, go to the Ticket to Work “Find Help” Page, www.choosework.net/findhelp.  From home page you can navigate to find contact information for WIPA projects in your state or region of the state.
  • Your state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency might also fund free work incentives counseling if you have an open case with the VR agency.
  • In some states, you might find free work incentives counseling outside of the WIPA or VR agency systems.