Slepian Smith, PLLC

Going back to work while on Social Security Disability

Applying for and securing Social Security Disability (SSD) is no easy feat. That’s probably why so many people who receive benefits are reluctant to try working again. They worry about their disability becoming worse or getting in the way of performing their job. They worry about first losing benefits and then losing their job and being left with no income.

Luckily, the Social Security Administration has “safety nets” in place to allow people to transition back to employment gradually and with caution. The SSA offers return-to-work programs such as Ticket to Work, PASS, Vocational Rehabilitation and Trial Work that help SSD recipients attempt to work while preserving their benefits.

The programs also offer vocational training and rehabilitation, job referrals and other support.

Trial work program

SSD beneficiaries are eligible for a trial work period, which gives them at least nine months to try working while still receiving full benefits (if work is properly reported and the disability is still present).

This program doesn’t have an income limit. A trial work month is considered any month in which more than $850 is earned in total. That amount could change in 2019. Eligibility continues until nine trial work months have been used in a 60-month period.

After the trial work period ends, SSD recipients have 36 months during which they can still work and receive benefits in months that they did not have “substantial earnings.” In 2018, this was considered earnings over $1,180 (or $1,970 for the blind).

Even after losing SSD because of substantial earnings, individuals can ask for expeditated reinstatement of benefits within five years if they are unable to continue working due to the same disability or condition. A new application is not necessary.

The SSA wants to be informed

An important note is that the SSA wants to be kept informed when SSD recipients return to work or stop working or when previously reported work, hours, duties or pay changes. Accurate reporting is critical to be able to participate in the trial work program and other programs.

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