It is quite possible to enjoy a safe and rewarding experience while traveling, even if you are dependent on receiving disability benefits. Traveling while on disability benefits needs a positive attitude and careful planning and preparation, especially if you choose to travel far from home. You need to budget for the extra expense of traveling as well as be aware of the SSA’s rules about time away from the U.S. if choosing to travel overseas. Safe and comfortable travel also means you need to ensure the medical services needed for your disability are available.
Can You Afford to Travel on Disability Benefits?
The main limiting factor that determines how long you can travel, where you can go and the comfort level enjoyed is the amount you regularly receive in disability benefits. The average monthly benefits payment is $1,500, although you may receive less or more than that figure. Travel may mean that the things you normally pay for are more expensive, so you will have to carefully plan how long you can travel, what your mode of transport is going to be, where you will stay, i.e. your accommodations, and how you will afford to pay for food.
If you are receiving disability benefits through the SSDI program, you are not confined to surviving on disability benefits while traveling, but you will then have to use any savings you have for expenses which are over and above your monthly benefits payment. If you are receiving benefits through the SSI program, you are unlikely to have much savings for travel, so need to be much more careful when planning a trip away from home.
The other limiting factor which can limit where you can travel and how long you can travel is the potential extra expense of accessing necessary medical or other services to ensure you receive any regular medical or other treatment needed to support your disability.
Traveling Internationally/Overseas on Disability Benefits
You can travel overseas, i.e. outside of U.S. territory, for up to six months in a year if you are receiving disability benefits through the SSDI program. This is because your benefits have been determined by the social security taxes you paid while you were in employment. The amount of SSDI benefits payments is not reduced while overseas. Even if you are away from U.S. territory for more than six months, you may still be able to receive disability benefits regularly, but the SSA may ask you to return to the U.S. after the first six month period to complete necessary paperwork.
If you are receiving SSI benefits, you only have 28 days away from U.S. territory before your payments are stopped. You must then spend 28 days back in the U.S. before payments resume.
Whatever type of benefits you are receiving, SSDI or SSI, you will need to let the SSA know that you intend traveling overseas before you leave the U.S. and preferably opt to receive payments electronically rather than by check.
Plan Your Travel Carefully
Travel can be immensely satisfying, even if you have a disability. If you are dependent on disability benefits, especially if you are on the SSI program, you may need to carefully plan your travel budget, how long and where you can travel and how to get by on a limited income.