Can Current Social Security Disability Beneficiaries Return to Work?

There are many things that you won’t know whether you can do unless you try to do them. Returning to work while you have a disability may be one of those things. You may be anxious about returning to work. You may be having thoughts such as:

  • What will happen to my Social Security disability benefits if I try to work but find that I can’t do it?

  • Am I making a mistake in trying to go back to work?

  • Am I making a mistake in not trying to go back to work?

  • What will happen if my medical condition gets worse over the next few months and I can’t continue to work?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) understands that you have all of these questions and provides some options for you to try to work while you continue to receive disability benefits.

You Can Try to Go Back to Work

The SSA has made certain commitments to people receiving Social Security disability to make trying to go back to work easier. According to the agency, the following safeguards are in place for you if you decide to go back to work while receiving Social Security disability benefits:

  • You may participate in a trial work period. The trial work period allows you to work for up to nine months in a 60-month period while you continue to receive your Social Security disability benefits. There is no limit on how much you can earn during these nine months. In order for a month to count towards the nine months that you are allowed in a trial work period, you must earn a certain amount during the month. In 2017, that amount was $840.

  • You may have an extended period of eligibility. After the nine-month trial work period has ended, you have 36 months during which you may receive Social Security disability benefits for any month during which you were not engaged in substantial gainful activity. In 2017, substantial gainful activity was defined as $1,170 for most Social Security disability recipients and $1,950 for Social Security disability recipients who are blind.

  • You may request that Social Security disability benefits be reinstated without reapplying for benefits. If your benefits ended because of the amount that you were able to earn and your disability later prevents you from working, then you may be able to request that your benefits begin again without filing a new application for benefits. This reinstatement option is available to you for five years.

  • Medicare benefits may continue for years. Your Social Security disability benefits end because of your earnings. However, Medicare benefits may continue for 93 months after your nine-month trial work period ends. After that you may be able to purchase Medicare coverage.

Some work-related expenses may be deducted from your earnings before the SSA determines if you earn enough to be considered for the trial work period or if you engaged in substantial gainful activity.

You May Participate in the Ticket to Work Program

If you are currently receiving Social Security disability benefits but want to try to work, the SSA created a special program in 1999 that might help you. It was named the “Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program,” also known as the “Ticket Program.”

Over the years, this program has evolved and changed, but the basic goal is the same: to help disabled Americans return to the workforce without jeopardizing their financial footing. 

The Ticket to Work program is voluntary. If you decide to participate in the program then you may receive:

  • Career counseling.

  • Vocational rehabilitation.

  • Job placement assistance.

All of this will be provided to you for free.

You Should Talk to a Lawyer Before Going Back to Work

Any change in your employment status, job duties, or income must be promptly reported to the SSA. Going back to work often allows you to earn more than your Social Security disability benefits. It may be something that you want to do, but not at the risk of foregoing the benefits that you need.

Returning to work is a situation that is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the SSA and it is something that should be thoroughly discussed with your Social Security disability lawyer. Our experienced lawyers know that you are facing a difficult decision and we are here to answer any questions you may have about how to protect your benefits. Please contact us via this website or by phone to learn more.

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law