Guide to the SSA's Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) Program

What All Social Security Disability Recipients Should Know About PASS

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PASS stands for the Plan to Achieve Self-Support and is a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provision to help people with disabilities return to the workforce. PASS is primarily for individuals who are already receiving Social Security income, but would like to either go to work or start a business. The plan is a way for individuals to set aside some of their Social Security income for educational or training or for business expenses such as space rental and equipment.

The ultimate goal of the provision is to help people with disabilities find employment that reduces or even eliminates their need for SSI or SSDI benefits. In order to qualify for PASS, individuals must write a business plan (or PASS Plan) detailing how they will use the money they set aside to reach their work or business goals.

Benefits of PASS

PASS can benefit individuals with disabilities who don’t have money set aside for college, vocational training, or to start a new business. Individuals who have an approved PASS plan can set aside money for their goal(s) from their monthly SSI or SSDI check. In most cases, recipients will then receive more money in their check so that their basic living expenses are still provided for as they work toward gainful employment. Most importantly, PASS applicants are not penalized for the additional resources set aside for their PASS plan goals, which may help individuals maintain their eligibility for SSI and SSDI benefits as long as they need them.

PASS Application Process

The PASS program application requirements are simple, but they must be followed exactly to ensure the plan is accepted. Given the strict nature of the application process, applicants can request help drafting their PASS plan from resources like a vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor or even the local Social Security office.

Once an application is approved, it will be subject to periodic review to ensure that the applicant is following their plan to achieve their goals for employment and self-sufficiency. If at any time the applicant chooses to no longer pursue their PASS goals, or wishes to change their plan, they must notify their local Social Security office. Benefits that were paid after an applicant discontinued their plan may have to be paid back to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

PASS Application Requirements

According to the Social Security Administration, the following requirements must be met when filling out a PASS application:

  • The PASS Plan for SSI recipients must be designed specifically for the individual applying for the benefit.
  • The application must be done using the SSA-545 application from the Social Security Administration.
  • A submitted PASS plan must include the specific work goal that you wish to achieve, such as a license for chemical dependency counseling, a degree in public relations, or a vocational job such as a pastry chef.
  • The PASS plan must also give a specific time frame for reaching your goal. This could be two or four years for a degree, or a certain number of months required to receive a license or vocational training for a job that doesn't require a degree. It may also detail how long it will take to start a new business, from buying the initial equipment to opening the door to customers.
  • The PASS plan must explain how much money you will set aside each month for reaching your goal, as well as how much money in resources you may already have that will be used for attaining the goal.
  • Last, but not least, the PASS plan must explain how you will keep the PASS money separate from other funds, such as setting up a separate savings account or business account.

For more information on the PASS application requirements, be sure to consult the Social Security Administration website.

PASS Plan Application

To apply to the PASS Plan, ask for a copy of Form SSA-545 from your local Social Security Office or download the form from the Social Security website. Fill out the form completely and provide all supporting documentation before returning it to your local Social Security office. If you’re not sure what the address of your Social Security office is, call 1-800-772-1213 and you’ll be given the address of the closest office location.

Application Review Process

The PASS plan approval process will usually take several weeks as it will be reviewed by a PASS expert. Applicants will be notified by mail if their application has been approved. If an application is denied, the applicant has a right to appeal the decision or submit a new plan.

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