Blog | April 17, 2019

Can I Work While On Social Security for Disability?

Many who are out of work entirely due to a disability have a strong desire to go back to work, even those who are receiving Social Security benefits. Often, the push to go back to work goes far beyond the extra money made. Disabled workers frequently miss the purpose, direction, and sense of satisfaction that goes along with working. However, those receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits due to disability frequently question what effect working will have on their benefits.

The good news is that the Social Security Administration encourages individuals to go back to work and has a set of special rules in place to help with that transition. These rules are designed to help SSD and SSI recipients go back to work without the fear of suddenly losing their eligibility for benefits. These special rules are known as “work incentives.”

Social Security Disability (SSD) Work Incentives

SSD recipients can take advantage of a trial work period, which is a huge benefit. This trial period allows you to attempt to return to work while continuing to receive your SSD benefits. Under the trial work period, you will continue receiving SSD benefits for the first 9 months of returning to work. After that 9 month period, the Social Security Administration will take a look at your case to determine whether you are earning above a certain amount each month, otherwise known as substantial gainful activity (SGA).The 9 months of work do not have to be consecutive, but they must happen within a period of 5 years. If the Administration determines that you are performing SGA, your benefits will continue for three more months before stopping.

If you continue working beyond that initial 9 month trial period, you can still receive some protections. An extended period of eligibility will apply for the following 36 months after the trial work period. During those 36 months, you will receive your SSD benefit any month you earn below the SGA amount. In order to receive those payments you do not need to refile a new application. You simply need to notify the SSA.

If you return to work, but become disabled and unable to work again within five years from when your benefits stopped, you can begin receiving benefits again. You will have to submit a new application, but the SSA does not have to determine your eligibility all over again. You become eligible to start receiving benefits after the first full month you were disabled again. You can also apply for an expedited reinstatement of your benefits.

Medicare: If you go back to work more than 9 months but are still disabled in some way, your Medicare benefits do not simply shut off. Your coverage can continue for at least 8 ½ years. Your hospital insurance coverage is free during that period. After those 8 ½ years you can elect to buy Medicare coverage by paying a monthly premium.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Work Incentives

Much like SSD recipients, those receiving SSI have certain protections to help them go back to work. If you are receiving SSI and return to work, you can continue receiving SSI payments until your income is more than the SSI income limits. Medicaid coverage can also continue after you return to work, so long as you meet certain criteria. The rules about how much of your income counts towards the SSI limits can be complicated. Every dollar you earn working does not necessarily count towards the SSI income limit. Those rules are very important, because they can keep you below the SSI income limit, which means that your benefits will continue.

If you are receiving Social Security benefits for a disability, there is plenty of hope if you’d like to go back to work. Whether you are thinking of going back to work while on SSD or SSI or you are already back to work, taking advantage of the full set of work incentives is important. We have extensive experience representing clients who have worked while on SSD or SSI and can help guide and advise you to ensure your benefits are fully protected.

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