Can You Work While On Disability?

by May 31, 2017

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Yes. However, you must either be part of a program or make less than a certain amount each month. Below, we discuss the options you might have to work while on disability.

How much can I make on disability?

Before we get into your options, we should first explain how much you can make on disability. The income limit depends on what benefit you are receiving.

If you work while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must make below a certain amount, adjusted according to the year’s cost of living. For 2017, the income limit is $1,170 per month.

If you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your income must be below that year’s Federal Benefit Rate. In 2017, this amount is $735.

What options do I have for working while on disability?

You have three options to work while on disability:

  • Make below the income limit for your specific benefit
  • Take advantage of the trial work period
  • Take part in the Ticket to Work program offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA)

What is the trial work period?

The SSA allows you to test your ability to work without losing your SSDI benefits. This trial work period allows you nine months in a five-year period to work without worrying about risking your benefits. The nine months do not have to be consecutive.

It is important to note that only a certain amount of money will trigger a “month of service.” For the year 2017, if a person earns more than $840 a month, that month will count as a month of service toward the total of nine months. This means any months that you make below this amount do not count as part of your trial work period.

What is an extended period of eligibility?

Once your trial period runs out, you have three years to work (earning $1,170 a month or less) without losing your benefits. You do not have to file a new application or go through a new eligibility process to receive SSDI benefits during the extended period of eligibility.

What if I am able to work, but must stop again because of my disability?

The SSA will cut off your benefits if it finds you are capable of engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (making more than $1,170 a month). However, in many cases, a person’s disability will, at a later date, make it impossible to continue working.

If this happens to you, the SSA offers expedited reinstatement. This means you will not need to file a new application or wait for the SSA to review your condition to begin receiving benefits.

All you need to do is request the SSA restart your benefits within five years.

What is the Ticket to Work program?

The SSA has several programs designed to help disabled people work. One of these is the Ticket to Work program. The Ticket to Work program provides services and support for people with disabilities to be able to work, with the ultimate goal of becoming financially independent.

The program provides assistance with vocational rehabilitation, finding a job, and other support services. Ticket to Work is a completely voluntary program. There is no penalty for not participating in the program. While you might not be able to keep your cash benefits while participating in the program, your Medicare or Medicaid will stay active.

The SSA has other work incentives, such as the Plan to Achieve Self-Support program, to help people who are on disability benefits become financially independent.

Consult with a lawyer to determine which programs might benefit you.

What can happen if I do not report my earnings from working?

It can be difficult to make ends meet when trying to survive solely on disability benefits. It may be tempting to do a little work on the side and not report the earnings, so you do not lose your disability benefits. This can have serious consequences.

You must report all work and all changes in work. You must include all earnings, including both wages and self-employment. If you continue to accept disability benefits while working and not reporting your income, the SSA may determine it made an overpayment to you for every month in which you worked.

Even if you quit your unreported job, the SSA can withhold future benefit payments until you have paid off the overpayment amount. If the SSA terminates your disability benefits, you may have to repay the entire overpaid amount out of pocket. The SSA can intercept tax refunds and garnish your wages to collect the overpayment.

You might even face Social Security fraud charges. The SSA has a zero-tolerance policy for fraud. Consequences can include having to pay back all overpayments, fines of up to $5,000 for each occurrence, and imprisonment.

Get help from a Social Security disability lawyer.

Navigating the disability benefits process is complicated and tricky. Our disability lawyers have decades of experience handling these cases, and will help you get the benefits you deserve. Call us today to set up your consultation: 865-566-0800.