Can I Work While On Disability?

Navigating your disability eligibility can be confusing enough, but when work comes into play, you may have no idea what to do next. Nearly 9 million Americans receive Social Security disability benefits each year, meaning they are unable to work. What happens if you want to try to head back into the workforce after you have been approved for Social Security benefits? Will you never be able to receive benefits again? What if it doesn’t work out? The prospect alone can be frightening.

If you’re wondering what to do next, let us help. Let’s go over how your work impacts your disability benefits.

What happens if I start working?

First off, you should be celebrating! Getting a job during or after experiencing a disability is a huge accomplishment, not something you should be worrying about. That being said, we should discuss what happens after you start your job.

When you begin working, you may enter a trial work period, which is a nine month period where you may try to work without losing your disability benefit. This trial work period only applies if you are receiving Social Security disability and does not apply if you only receive SSI benefits. In order to be considered a trial work period, you must earn at least $880 per month of gross income in 2018. If you are self-employed, you must work less than 80 hours a month, no matter how much you earn. If you earn under this amount, it will not impact you. During your trial work period, you will be able to work while still receiving your full disability benefit. After you’ve worked nine months – consecutive or not, as long as they are within a 60 month timeframe – you will go into an extended period of eligibility.

In an extended period of eligibility, you will still be able to receive your disability benefits if it falls under the substantial gainful activity (SGA) threshold. For 2019, this is $1,220 or $2,040 for those who are blind. If your income for a month is less than this, you will still receive a disability payment. If your income is more, your disability benefit will stop. This period lasts for 36 months from the end of your trial work period. Once your extended period of eligibility ends, you will not receive a benefit. However, if your condition makes it so that you can’t work, you may be eligible for an expedited reinstatement of your benefits as long as it is within 5 years of not receiving your benefit.

When you measure your SGA each month, know that you are eligible for deductions based on your disability. Anything you pay for which is needed to complete your job can be deducted from your SGA. This may include:

  • Service animals
  • Medical devices
  • Prosthesis
  • Prescription drugs

How can I get back to work?

If you are interested in finding employment, you may return to work. As you start job searching, be aware that an employer must make accommodations for you under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that there must be reasonable accommodations made if it impacts your ability to do your job. For instance, you may be given a chair if you cannot stand up all day at your cashier job.

Sometimes, you may not be able to return to your old job due to your disability. You may also choose to sign up through the SSA’s Ticket to Work program. This program helps those with disabilities to receive free vocational training so they can find a new job. They can also help you to find a work site that can set you up for long-term success, allowing you to find a potential career in the process.

As you return to work, be aware that you will need to notify the SSA as soon as you start working. Advise SSA of your expected start date, your pay scale and hours and any work-related expenses you have. This allows them to accurately estimate whether or not you have entered your trial work period or exceeded your SGA.

Do you need help receiving your Social Security disability benefits?

Contact Reynolds & Gold. We can help you understand how your benefits work and help champion on your behalf.

Man in wheelchair makes a phone call while writing down notes.