The Social Security Administration (SSA) has established programs to allow and assist individuals collecting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to return to work.
The SSA provides extended cash benefits while an injured person slowly returns to a normal work schedule. Medicare and Medicaid benefits may continue for a time period as work resumes. And the SSA Ticket to Work program provides training and rehabilitation.
These programs help to get an injured or disabled individual back to earning a living without risking benefits if unable to continue working or leaving him or her in a financial or medical crisis while trying to return to work.
SSDI: Trial Work Period and SGA
To assist recovering workers hoping to return to work, the SSA has established guidelines for the return to substantial gainful activity (SGA) and for the period immediately after. These guidelines include maximum income limits but protect benefits during the transitory period when a person is attempting to get back to work.
Achieving SGA is the goal of the program and once a worker reaches this point, he will no longer need or be eligible for SSDI. However, while someone is slowly working up to full-time hours and sustainable income to reach SGA, he or she remains eligible for SSDI payments.
In 2014, the minimum income level for obtaining SGA is $1,070 per month (or $1,800 for blind recipients). Typically SSDI benefits end when a worker reaches this level of income, but the SSA extends a period of nine months as a trial work period where beneficiaries can receive SSDI payments along with paychecks, even when exceeding the maximum income level of $1,070 per month. To be considered a trial work period month the worker must earn at least $770.
For another 36 months after the trial work period is over, you may receive SSDI in addition to your paycheck during any month where income falls below the $1,070. In addition, for a five-year period after stoppage of benefits for reaching SGA, beneficiaries can request a reinstatement of benefits if their disability once again makes it impossible to work. The process of reactivating benefits during this five-year period is called expedited reinstatement.
And if you stop receiving SSDI payments because of a return to work and upon reaching SGA, you can continue to receive your Medicare Part A benefits for a period of up to 93 months.
SSI: Returning to Work & Implications on Benefits
Because SSI is an income-based benefit, your ability to continue to collect SSI is dependent on your earnings as well as disability. If you are collecting SSI benefits from a disability but are able to return to work, you can continue to collect SSI payments as long as your earnings do not exceed the maximum level.
If you do go back to work and SSI payments are stopped because of your income being over the maximum level, you are eligible to reinstate your benefits at any time during the following five years without reapplying if your income is reduced or eliminated because of your disability.
Medicaid is also an income-based benefit, and may continue even if your SSI benefits end as long as you are within the state guidelines.
The SSA Ticket to Work Program
Recipients of SSI or SSDI hoping to return to work can explore the resources available to them through the SSA Ticket to Work program. The SSA offers job referrals, training programs, rehabilitation and employment support services, all at no expense to the beneficiary.
This program encourages disabled workers to evaluate alternate work options that allow them to find gainful employment, such as when they are unable to return to their previous line of work. The SSA maintains a Work Help Line at 866-YOURTICKET where workers can call for information.
A Lawyer Can Help with Your Legal Needs
If you have questions or need help managing your SSI or SSDI case, Rob Levine & Associates can help. Call us today at 866-LAW-SSDI to set up a consultation.