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You applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits when your condition prevented you from holding a steady job or drastically reduced your hours. Yet, you wonder if after you’ve been approved, you can continue to work – even if it’s just for a few hours a day. While disability experts recommend holding off during the application process, you might be able to continue working under the following provisions.
As a basic rule, SSD recipients cannot continue to receive benefits while doing what’s considered “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA. As of 2017, SGA is earning at least $1,170 per month or $1,920 for blind individuals.
However, that does not mean you can’t work and make less than the SGA level per month. This depends on whether, by working, you continue to meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled. Additionally, realize that your SSD payments may subtract part of your income. While the SSA excludes the first $65, half of what exceeds this amount will be deducted from your disability payment.
Furthermore, understand that if the amount you earn from working goes over the SGA level, the SSA will terminate your benefits.
Trial Work Periods
What if you eventually plan to go back into the workforce or would like to try working again? The SSA offers what’s known as a trial work period. During a nine-month timeframe, consecutive or non-consecutive, you can continue to receive your full SSD benefits, even if your earned income exceeds SGA levels. If you’re self-employed, your SGA is considered any month where you work above 80 hours or earn more than $840.
However, once you reach the nine-month mark, your benefits don’t stop right away. Rather, for a 36-month period known as extended eligibility, you can still receive SSD if your earnings go below SGA levels.
Additionally, the SSA has a five-year benefits reinstatement period. If you find that your income drops because your disability prevents you from working, your benefits will be reinstated without the SSA requiring the full application process.
Ticket to Work
What if you also want to work again, but find yourself unable to perform any duties related to past jobs? The SSA offers a vocational rehabilitation program called Ticket to Work. Different from the trial work period, Ticket to Work offers free training or schooling to eligible SSD recipients for the purpose of your return to the workforce. During the training or schooling period, the SSA may temporarily suspend its Continuing Disability Review.
Reporting Your Earnings
However you return to the workforce, the SSA requires you to keep them updated on the following:
- Start and stop dates for any job.
- Changes to responsibilities, pay or hours worked.
- Whether you have any work-related expenses as the result of your disability.
- Any monthly wages, either by telephone, mail or bringing your pay stub to the local SSA office.