Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can serve as an essential source of income when a serious injury or illness leaves you totally disabled and prevents you from working for a period of 12 months or longer. However, if you've found an effective medication or treatment and your condition improves, you may be considering going back to work in some capacity—and concerned about how that could affect your ability to continue collecting benefits.
In some cases, it may be possible to go back to work while still receiving your monthly SSDI payments. Here's what you need to know and how the seasoned Social Security disability attorneys with O'Connor Law PLLC can help.
Returning to Work Is a Big Decision
You want to go back to work and, ultimately, that's what the Social Security Administration (SSA) wants, too. Unfortunately, even if you think you may be well enough to start working again, you may still face barriers and challenges. For example, you may find that you're no longer able to do the job you did before your injury or illness, or discover that you actually aren't up to returning to the workplace after all.
The SSA understands that going back to work is a big decision, and has resources and programs designed to make the transition as smooth as possible. A knowledgeable SSDI attorney can help you take advantage of helpful programs and navigate the requirements for working while retaining benefits.
Understanding the Ticket to Work Program
Administered by the SSA, Ticket to Work is a voluntary program that offers a wide range of free employment services for SSDI recipients. The program helps SSDI beneficiaries ages 18 through 64:
- Determine if returning to work is right for them
- Prepare to rejoin the workforce
- Find a job or maintain success while working
Ticket to Work participants can take advantage of vital employment services such as career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, job placement, and training. Although Ticket to Work is intended to help individuals collecting SSDI benefits return to work and successfully maintain employment in order to reduce their dependence on federal disability assistance programs, participating in the program doesn't mean your payments have to stop.
Work Trial Period and Extended Eligibility
Not sure if you're well enough to return to work for substantial gainful employment (SGA)? The SSA gives you nine months to test your working ability without sacrificing your SSDI benefits. While these nine trial months don't have to be consecutive, they must occur within a five-year (60-month) period.
During this trial period, you can continue to receive full SSDI benefits, regardless of what you're earning. However, any month in which your total earnings exceed a specified amount—$910 in 2020—counts as a trial month, according to the SSA.
Even when the nine-month trial period goes well, many SSDI recipients worry about returning to work without a safety net. With that concern in mind, the SSA provides a 36-month period in which SSDI beneficiaries are eligible to collect monthly benefits if their earnings aren't substantial (less than $1,260 in 2020).
What if you successfully return to work for a time and then your disabling condition returns or worsens? If this occurs within five years of the date that your SSDI benefits stopped, you can have them reinstated without having to submit a new application. If more than five years have passed, you'll likely be required to complete a new application for benefits.
Talk to a Skilled Social Security Disability Attorney
Collecting SSDI benefits and considering going back to work? The adept Social Security disability attorneys with O'Connor Law PLLC can review your case and help you understand your options. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case with a member of our accomplished legal team.