One of the most common questions recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is whether they are allowed to go back to work or at least work part time for some additional income. The answer is that some employment is allowed, but if you work too much for too long you risk losing your benefits,
Though the question can be complicated and fraught with exceptions, here are some basic guidelines. If you are receiving disability and engage in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), you can continue to receive SSDI for a nine-month “trial period” plus a three-month “grace period,” no matter how much money you earn. Earning more than $810 a month counts as SGA. In other words, if you work for less than $810 per month,you maybe able to continue receiving benefits. You can earn more than that and still receive benefits —but only for 12 months.
After that, if your outside earnings exceed $1,130, your benefits will be suspended, but only for the month in which your earnings exceed that amount. If your earnings fall below $1,130 per month, benefits resume. This can continue for some time—33 months after the 12-month trial period and grace period have ended, a period known as “extended eligibility.”
One detail to remember is that if, as a result of your disability, you have work-related expenses that an able-bodied person doesn’t, such as transportation costs, the Social Security Administration allows these to be deducted from your monthly earnings. You must report these expenses to the SSA, along with other data, such as when you started work, your hours, compensation and responsibilities.
Even if your benefits are stopped because you are earning too much, they can be reinstated if your disability prevents you from continuing to work. For a five-year period, you can get “expedited reinstatement,” which does not require a new application. In spite of the apparent logic of these regulations, dealing with the bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration is never a walk in the park. You will find the whole process much easier if you consult with an experienced disability attorney.
If you are not yet working but would like to, programs such as Social Security’s “Ticket to Work” program may help you obtain vocational training or a job without jeopardizing benefits.
On the other hand, if you are currently working but want to apply for disability and stop working, you may find that your claim is greeted with more skepticism than claims of those who not currently working at all.
In these situations, and in many others involving SSDI claims, eligibility, and compensation, the assistance of a skilled disability lawyer can help you make the best case to claims examiners and judges.