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Can I work while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

July 8, 2020

By Shelley W. Elovitz, Esquire

Many people on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) would like to continue working in some capacity, but are afraid a job may cause them to lose their benefits. There are instances when you can work and still receive SSDI Benefits, but if done incorrectly, can jeopardize your benefits. We strongly advise that you consult with legal counsel to understand all of your options. You may also want to consult Social Security’s pamphlet Working While Disabled: How We Can Help.

Substantial Gainful Activity

You are able to work and still collect benefits if your employment income does not meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). SGA is defined in 2020 as earning more than $1,260 a month (or $2,110 if you are blind).

The Ticket to Work Program

Social Security runs a program called Ticket to Work. They offer access to a benefits counselor, job training, free vocational rehab and job referrals. The program has three phases:

The Trial Work Period. This period lets you test whether it is realistic for you to work. In 2020, a trial work month is any month your total earnings are over $910. If you’re self-employed, you have a trial work month when you earn more than $910 (after business expenses) or work more than 80 hours in your own business. The trial work period continues until you have used nine cumulative trial work months within a 60-month period.

Extended Period of Eligibility. After you complete your Trial Work Period, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month your earnings aren’t “substantial.” In 2020, that is earnings over $1,260 ($2,110 if you’re blind). No new application or disability decision is needed to receive Social Security disability benefits during this period.

Expedited Reinstatement. If you earn more than $1,260 ($2,110 if you are blind), your benefits will stop. Should you then discover you cannot continue working, because of your condition, you have five years to request that your benefits restart. You won’t have to file a new application or wait for your benefits to restart while Social Security reviews your medical condition.

If you are considering work but do not want to lose your benefits, contact our office at (412) 338-1183 or online. It is very important to have guidance so that you have the best possible outcome. In our opinion, attempting to work/or collecting Unemployment Compensation invites closer scrutiny of your chance to obtain, stay on, or re-obtain Social Security Disability Insurance and can often result in an allegation of an overpayment by the Social Security bureaucracy.  We also caution all of our clients to be honest and transparent. There are significant fines and even possible imprisonment for those who misrepresent or conceal any fact that might be relevant in determining their eligibility for disability.

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