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’s Ticket to Work program provides training and rehabilitation if there is a need to change careers in order to return to work.
These programs help get an injured or disabled individual back to earning a living without leaving him or her in a financial or medical crisis while trying to do so or if unable to continue working.
SSDI – Trial Work Period and SGA
This program applies to individuals receiving SSDI payments. To assist recovering workers in their journey back to gainful employment, 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 months and years when a person attempts to return to work.
Achieving SGA is the goal of the program, and once a worker reaches this point, he or she no longer will need or be eligible for SSDI payments. However, while someone slowly works 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 during which beneficiaries can receive SSDI payments along with paychecks, even when the maximum income level of $1,070 per month is exceeded. To be considered a trial work period month, the worker must earn at least $770.
This trial period is extended an additional 36 months for financial support during any month when income falls below $1,070. In addition, for a five-year period after SGA is obtained, 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.
Further, if you stop receiving SSDI payments because you’ve reached SGA, you can continue to receive your Medicare Part A benefits for a period of up to 93 months.
SSI – Returning to Work While Receiving Benefits
Because SSI is an income-based benefit, your ability to continue to collect SSI is directly impacted by your earnings. If you are collecting SSI benefits due to 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 for your state.
If you do return to work and SSI payments are stopped due to your income being higher than 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 due to 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 for earnings.
Ticket to Work Program
Recipients of SSI or SSDI can explore the resources available to them through the SSA’s 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 when they are unable to return to their previous line of work. The SSA maintains a Work Help Line at 1-866-YOURTICKET where workers can call for information.
Get Help with Disability Benefits from Rob Levine & Associates
If you have questions or need help managing your SSI or SSDI case, Rob Levine & Associates can help. Call us today at 1-866-LAW-SSDI to set up a consultation to discuss your case with an attorney.