Social Security, as with most government programs, has many exceptions to its rules. In regards to earnings, one of those exceptions is whether money earned at a job is a subsidy or wages. Subsidies are support or assistance provided by your employer that result in your wages exceeding the actual value of the services you perform. For example, a claimant who works for his father’s company laying carpets and receives close supervision of all his work or whose behavior is tolerated beyond that of any non-disabled employee may not be performing substantial gainful activity. The wages earned by that claimant then would be deemed a subsidy and not be counted against your SSI payments or eligibility for SSDI. If SSA determines that you receive a subsidy as opposed to substantial gainful activity, they will look to your employer to set your “real” wage or actual value of actual work performed. If your employer will not or cannot set your “real” wage, the SSA will do it for them.
How is a subsidy determined? Every case is evaluated on an individual basis. A subsidy or special condition may exist if: (1) the claimant receives more supervision that other workers doing the same or a similar job for the same pay; (2) the claimant has fewer responsibilities than other employees for the same pay; or (3) the claimant has a job coach or mentor who helps him perform some of his work.