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Author: Mike Lewis, Esq., Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Consult a Disability Benefits Lawyer to Help You Understand the SSDI Application and Appeals Process

In order to catch fraud attempts, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can be quick to deny initial applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). One of the most common reasons your application can be denied is that you make too much money. Many applicants wonder why this matters if they are truly disabled. The SSA considers how much money you make before awarding you monthly disability benefits because SSDI is intended to provide financial assistance to individuals who have suffered a disability that prevents them from working and making a ‘substantial’ income to support themselves.

“Substantial Gainful Activity” Limit

You can receive SSDI benefits and work as long as your earnings are less than the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) limit. Your application will likely be denied if your wages exceed this limit because the SSA believes your condition does not affect your ability to make a living. “In 2018, we consider earnings over $1,180 ($1,970 if you’re blind) to be substantial,” states the SSA.

However, keep in mind that this figure is adjusted annually. Additionally, it’s not just the amount you’re making that’s important. The SSA also considers the source of your income when determining what benefits you’re entitled to. Money received from private sources, such as investments, will usually not impact your SSDI benefits. Furthermore, public benefits from sources like the Veterans Administration will also not affect your ability to receive benefits. Only work income counts toward the SGA limit because it proves you’re capable of working to earn a ‘substantial’ amount. To sum things up, while it is possible to be denied for making too much money, the limit can actually vary from person to person depending on how much they’re making and their particular sources of income.

If you’ve been denied social security because you make too much money, it’s in your best interest to have an experienced disability benefits lawyer review your case. The appeals process is complicated if you aren’t familiar with the SSA’s specific rules and guidelines. A knowledgeable attorney can help you build a strong appeal to receive any benefits you may be entitled to.

Ticket to Work Program

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The SSA’s Ticket to Work program is designed to help disabled individuals work while continuing to receive their monthly benefits. This program is important because it gives people living with a disability the chance to work and have the financial security that their SSDI benefits provide.

Trial Work Period

During this period of the program, you can test your ability to work while still receiving your social security benefits in full. As long as your disability continues and you notify the SSA that you’re working, you will collect your benefits regardless of how much you earn through your job. In other words, there are no limits on your earnings during this time. The trial work period lasts until you have completed nine trial work months within a 60-month period. In 2018, the program considers a trial work month to be any month where your earnings exceed $850.

Extended Period of Eligibility

After the trial work period, you have 36 months in which you can work and continue receiving SSDI benefits. However, the substantial gainful activity limit applies at this point so, in 2018, you cannot make more than $1,180 or your benefits will stop.

Expedited Reinstatement

If your benefits stop due to substantial earnings but you can’t continue working because of your condition, you have 5 years to ask the SSA to restart your SSDI benefits. Within this time frame, you generally do not have to file a new application or wait to receive payment while the nature of your condition is reviewed.

Work Expenses

If you’re working with a disability, you might need items or services to assist you in the workplace such as specific equipment, a personal attendant or job coach, transportation to and from work, or counseling. The SSA may account for these necessary work expenses and deduct their costs from your monthly earnings that count toward the SGA limit before deciding if you’re still eligible to receive your SSDI benefits.

In other words, if you’re earning well above the $1,180 SGA limit, it may not affect your ability to continue receiving SSDI benefits, because the SSA may take your extra work expenses into consideration.

In addition to continued cash benefits while you work, the Ticket to Work program can also help disabled individuals with free vocational rehabilitation, training, job referrals, and other employment support. To learn more about your options or the SSA’s work incentive program, visit https://choosework.ssa.gov for more information.

Put A Trusted SSDI Law Firm On Your Side

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It’s no secret that the Social Security system and its application process are complex and time-consuming. If you’ve been denied SSDI benefits for a common reason like making too much money, contact The Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour to review your case. Dr. LaTour is a trusted and experienced Social Security attorney in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California. A denied application can be extremely frustrating, but with his team’s expertise on your side, you will receive expert legal advice and have a greater chance of successfully appealing your case. Don’t wait to fight for the disability benefits you need. Call our office today at 800-803-5090 or fill out our inquiry contact form to set up a free consultation.

About The Author

Mike Lewis is a Social Security disability lawyer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He currently serves as senior partner at Mike Lewis Attorneys, one of the leading personal injury law firms in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region. Mike is also a graduate of Wake Forest Law School and is a member of the American Board of Trial Lawyers Advocates.