If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and have considered trying to work at least part-time, but you are fearful of losing your benefits, you will be pleased to know that you may be able to work and still receive your SSDI benefits. Read on to learn more about the Social Security rules that allow you to work without jeopardizing your benefits.
Ticket to Work Program
If you want to work but can no longer perform work in your previous field, you may qualify for free educational and vocational training through Social Security’s Ticket to Work Program. SSDI and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) recipients ages 18 to 64 are eligible. You would sign up with an Employment Network (EN) or State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency who will coordinate career counseling, training, job placement and any other services to help obtain gainful employment.
While using the Ticket to Work Program, you would not be required to undergo a medical continuing disability review as long as you are making progress toward returning to work. In addition, should you again become unable to work due to your disability, you can start receiving SSDI benefits again without having to reapply.
Trial Work Period
The Trial Work Period (TWP) provides an opportunity for you to gauge your ability to work without risking losing your SSDI benefits, and you can earn as much as you want. The TWP continues for nine months within a 60-month period and starts when you begin working and performing “services”. The nine months do not have to be consecutive.
Work is considered as services for the TWP if your gross monthly earnings are $810 or more. If you are self-employed, a TWP work month is one where you earned more than $810 after expenses or worked more than 80 hours. The TWP begins the month you file for SSDI or the first month you are entitled to SSDI benefits, whichever is later. If for some reason you lose your job during a TWP, immediately notify Social Security. As long as you are still disabled, your benefits will be reinstated.
Extended Period of Eligibility
The Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) is a 3-year “re-entitlement” period that begins the month after your TWP has ended. You continue receiving your full SSDI benefits as long as you are disabled and your earnings stay below the substantial gain activity (SGA) level ($1,130 for non-blind persons and $1,820 for blind persons in 2016).
In any month that you earn above the SGA, you will not receive SSDI benefits for that month. Social Security will also determine that you are no longer disabled and will then pay benefits for the month your disability “ceased” and the next two months. Should your earnings fall below the SGA during the 36-month EPE period, your benefits can be restarted without having to reapply.
At the end of the EPE, you may still continue receiving SSDI benefits as long as you are disabled and your income remains below SGA. If you earn over the SGA any time after the 36-month period, your SSDI benefits will cease. If you must again stop working any time within the next five years because of your disability, you may qualify for an expedited reinstatement.
Still Have Questions About SSDI Benefits?
You can learn more about Social Security’s working incentive programs at their website. If you have questions that you feel would be better answered by an experienced social security attorney, you are welcome to give the Law Offices of Dr. Bill LaTour a call and schedule a free consultation.