It is not unusual or uncommon for someone who receives benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance program to have a desire to “test-the-waters” to see if they have the ability to return to work. Some SSDI beneficiaries want to earn extra money to supplement their monthly disability benefits.
When you realize that only about one-third of initial applications for SSDI are approved each year, it may be surprising to learn that the Social Security Administration encourages you to earn extra income. For example, one work incentive of SSDI lets you continue receiving monthly disability benefits while you work.
What follows is an overview of how each incentive rule of SSDI works. The Social Security disability advocates at London Eligibility can answer questions you may have about working while on SSDI.
Ticket to Work program
Although this article focuses on the SSDI program, we want you to be aware that you may qualify for work incentives if you receive Supplemental Security Income benefits alone or concurrently with SSDI. An SSD advocate can advise you about the SSI work incentive rules.
Social Security helps you to return to work through its Ticket to Work program. The services available through the program include:
1). Vocational rehabilitation.
2). Job training.
3). Employment referrals.
If you participate in the Ticket to Work program, medical reviews that are a normal part of the SSDI program are suspended for as long as you demonstrate progress in pursuing a plan to return to the workforce.
Working and substantial gainful activity
Social Security regulations implementing the Social Security Act define disabled for purposes of eligibility for SSDI and adult beneficiaries through the SSI program. You must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment expected to result in death or last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
Earnings are one measure of the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. Monthly earnings of $1,310 or more show you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. The earnings amount increases to $2,190 if your claim for SSDI benefits is based on blindness. The substantial gainful activity earnings increase in 2022 to $1,350 for non-blindness and $2,260 for someone who is blind. The trial work period
Work incentives offered by Social Security let you continue receiving SSDI monthly cash payments while you work. You also retain coverage through Medicare or Medicaid.
The first work incentive rule of SSDI is the trial work period that lets you test whether you can engage in work activities. A trial month is any month that you earn more than $940 working at a job. If you are self-employed, any month that your work income after deduction of business expenses exceeds $940 or that you work more than 80 hours at your business.
The trial work period lasts for a total of nine months, but they do not have to be used consecutively. You have up to 60 months to use the nine months of trial work.
Income earned during the trial work period does not affect your monthly payments through SSDI. You get to keep the earnings from work and still receive your disability benefits. If you earn more than $1,310 in 2021, which indicates that you have the capacity to engage in substantial gainful activity and are no longer disabled, it will not affect your eligibility for benefits during the nine-month trial work period. The SGA amount for someone receiving SSD benefits because of blindness is $2,190.
The extended period of eligibility
If you complete the nine months of a trial work period, Social Security disability offers an additional work incentive through an extended period of eligibility. You have 36 months to continue working while receiving monthly SSDI benefits as long as your monthly earnings do not qualify as substantial according to the income limits for disabled or blind individuals.
When your earnings in a month exceed the substantial gainful activity amount, your monthly SSDI benefits stop. However, if your medical condition prevents you from continuing to work, you have up to five years to ask Social Security to reinstate your SSDI benefits.
Reinstatement of benefits during an extended period of eligibility does not require the filing of a new application. Benefits may restart without having to wait for the completion of a review of your medical condition.
Consult a disability advocate about SSDI work rules
Getting advice from a Social Security disability advocate at London Eligibility provides skilled guidance about rules for working while receiving SSDI. For example, expenses related to your disability that you incur to be able to work may be deducted from your monthly expenses. Costs incurred for transportation and counseling services may reduce your monthly income to below substantial gainful activity limits.