Disability Group, Inc.

How a Return-to-Work Program Affects Social Security Benefits

If an individual is already receiving Social Security disability benefits, he/she may take a job to test their ability to perform full-time work. Social Security wants to encourage people to return to work if they think that they can, and so they have created special rules that allow people to test their ability to work while still receiving Social Security disability benefits. Social Security will allow people to continue to work for a certain period of time but still afford them benefits such as continuing monthly payments, continuing Medicare or Medicaid, and help with vocational training and education. Individuals who do return to work under a special work program must inform Social Security promptly when they start and stop work, and of any other work-related changes that could affect their benefits.

One type of program allowing Social Security disability benefits recipients to try working while receiving benefits is the Trial Work Period. The trial work period allows those receiving benefits to try working for nine months. During the time they are working, these individuals will continue to receive their Social Security benefits. Any month in which more than $750 is earned is counted as part of the nine month trial work period. The trial work period applies to nine consecutive or non-consecutive months in a 60-month period.

At the end of the trial work period, Social Security recipients still receive benefits while working during the Extended Period of Disability. That is, during the 36 months following the end of the trial work period, benefits recipients may still collect benefits while working so long as their earnings are not “substantial.” Per Social Security’s regulations, “substantial” earnings are those at $1,040 and over.

Even if an individual continues working through both the trial work period and the extended period of eligibility, and their benefits then cease, he/she will continue to receive some Medicare coverage for at least 93 months after the end of the nine month trial work period.

These are the only ways in which individuals may work while receiving Social Security disability benefits. Generally, any working can be detrimental to a Social Security claim or to a recipient receiving disability benefits because Social Security defines disability as being the inability to work. Because Social Security wants to encourage people to return to work, however, the regulations have created the exceptions discussed in this article to help people on their road back to working.

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