Returning to Work and its Effect on Disability Benefits

You are currently a recipient of Social Security Disability Insurance. There is an improvement in your medical condition that will allow you to go back to your pre-disability occupation. However, you are concerned about whether the improvement is real and whether you can consistently handle the pressures of being back at work. There is a provision in Social Security Disability administration to help you handle this transition phase.

Social Security Disability is intended to help people deal with the period when they are not able to be at their full income potential, and there are numerous effort to facilitate people re-entering the active work force. So there are certain work incentives and Ticket to Work programs specifically meant to help you get back to work:

  • Trial Work Period.This is a phase in which you can try getting back to work without fear of losing your Social Security Disability benefits. No matter your earnings, this is a nine month period in which you can continue to get your benefits along with your employment income. Any month is which you have an income of $880.00 or more is considered a Trial Work Period according to the standards as of 2019.

  • Extended Eligibility Period. As the name indicates, this is a longer approved period of 36 months during which you can get Social Security Disability benefits as long as your income is not substantial – the amount deemed substantial for 2019 is $1,220 per month. There is no need for a new application process or any other kind of approval to get this period of continued eligibility.

  • Speedy Reinstatement. There is a provision for those who are concerned that there may be a recurrence of the problem following a certain time at work. This is called Expedited Reinstatement because if you find that your old disability is resurfacing and affecting your ability to work, you can get your Social Security Disability benefits reinstated without going through the lengthy process of application and approval. For five years after your disability payments have stopped (because your income is substantial), you have the option of getting benefits promptly without having to wait for the medical confirmation of your disability.

  • Medicare Coverage Continuation. A big concern for anyone exploring work options is the reality of paying for medical coverage. One of the attractive work incentives is the continued Medicare Part A coverage for 93 months after a person stops receiving Social Security Disability benefits because of increased income. After the 93 month point the claimant will have to pay a monthly premium for continued coverage. If the claimant receives Part B coverage by paying a monthly amount, they will have to request in writing that the coverage be stopped.

  • Deduction of Work Related Expenses. When calculating a person’s income, every effort is made to ensure that expenses related to the disability are discounted. So if the disability forces you to use a certain kind of transportation, or if you need to buy special medication, that amount will likely be subtracted from the total when determining your monthly income. So, the calculation of substantial income will be calculated using the total costs of your disability.

As you can see, the provisions in place are intended to smooth the way for a claimant to return to work. Other than offering these direct financial aids for those exploring the possibility of returning to work, there is also the Ticket to Work program. This can take the form of training or education that prepares a claimant for a new role or job. A claimant can sign up for these programs and work with dedicated agencies to create a new career path, finding new ways of engaging with their old jobs.

If and when you do decide to work, it is important to keep the Social Security Administration informed about when you start or stop working. This will ensure that your records are accurately maintained and that you do not get over-paid at any point.

If you are interested in figuring out the best way to handle your transition back to work, you can use the Social Security program called Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA). The program is dedicated to addressing questions about Social Security’s work incentives relating both to Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income. There are also dedicated organizations in communities which focus on providing work incentive planning to people receiving disability benefits. These organizations can help you work out the implications of how going back to work will impact your disability payments also.

Social Security Disability is intended as a cushion to help people land softly in cases where a disability prevents them from carrying on their normal roles. Work incentives and Ticket to Work are programs that are great bridging programs that allow claimants to re-establish their lives.