Many individuals who receive Social Security Disability benefits are afraid to work because they fear it will affect their disability payments. This apprehension is understandable. However, Social Security has specific rules that allow individuals to receive their full monthly benefit payments, while attempting to work part-time or full-time jobs. When a client asks, “can I work and still receive social security disability,” the answer is yes.
The Trial Work Period
Social Security has established the Trial Work Period for the purpose of allowing recipients of SSD benefits to test their ability to return to work, while still receiving their full monthly benefits. The period can be total a maximum of nine months over a 60-month period. The time need not be consecutive. During the Trial Work Period, individuals can earn an unlimited amount of money without causing a reduction of the monthly benefit amount. The purpose of the Trial Work Period is to encourage disability benefits recipients to return to work as soon as they can.
How is the Trial Work Period calculated?
When an individual earns more than $770 in a month, that month counts towards the Trial Work Period. If the person is self-employed, such as a freelancer, consultant or small business owner, and works 80 hours or more in a month, that also counts towards the time period. Your monthly earnings are considered before taxes. You can deduct any impairment-related expenses you pay out-of-pocket in order to work. You must inform your Social Security office of your earnings each month by certified letter, including your pay stubs and impairment-related work expenses. This information should be provided by the 10th of each month in order to prevent your benefits from being terminated.
Extended Period of Eligibility
After your 9-month Trial Work Period has ended, you then enter what is known as the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). This is a 36-month period of time during which you will continue to receive your benefits each month, as long as you remain disabled and earn less than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) threshold. The threshold for non-blind individuals in 2014 was $1,070 and $1800 for the blind. Once this period ends, you can still earn benefits, as long as you do not exceed the threshold.
What happens if I exceed the Substantial Gainful Activity threshold?
During the 36-month entitlement period, if you exceed the SGA threshold in any month, you lose your benefits for that month. Social Security may also determine that your disability has “ceased.” If that happens, you will be paid in full for that month and two additional months, then your benefits will terminate. Your benefits can be reinstated if your earnings fall below the SGA threshold, without filing a new application, if this occurs during the EPE. When the 36-month EPE period ends, however, if you exceed the SGA for even one month, your benefits will terminate.
If you have questions regarding social security benefits, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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