The technical answer is yes, but it can be a thorny road if you don’t first consult with an attorney. That’s because the whole premise of SSDI is that you are too injured or ill to work. If you simply take a job or continue working without first determining what this will mean for your benefits, you could run into trouble and risk either:
- A) Not being awarded benefits in the first place;
- B) Losing the benefits you have.
Each individual situation is going to be different, and that’s why it’s important to discuss your options with a lawyer.
We understand that the SSDI benefits may not be enough to allow recipients to cover their full cost of living. Plus, those looking to obtain benefits may have nothing else on which to rely while they are waiting for approval. But you have to meet a certain set of criteria if you want to work and still qualify for benefits.
The key is not being able to engage in “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA.
The SGA threshold is revisited every year alongside the national average wage index, but as of 2016, it means that you cannot as an individual earn more than $1,130 a month in income. It can be up to $1,820 a month if you are blind. (For non-blind individuals, the $1,130 SGA amount is also applicable to those receiving Supplemental Security Income.)
So if you are applying for benefits and you are earning more than this each month, you automatically won’t be eligible to collect those benefits. You must also bear in mind that if you are working in any capacity, the Social Security Administration is going to look closely at your ability to do engage in other types of employment, which could also hurt your chances of obtaining benefits.
Now, let’s say you already have SSDI benefits. You really do want to return to work, but you aren’t sure if you are capable. One option you have is a trial work period. Those who receive SSDI are entitled to try out their ability to work – and still continue to receive benefits – regardless of whether that will push them over the SGA threshold. But it is only for nine months. As of 2016, any month where you earn more than $810 a month is deemed a “trial work month.” If you are self-employed, a trial work month is any month where you work more than 80 hours OR earn more than $810.
When that nine-month trial period is finished, you can still receiver SSDI for any month wherein your earnings are lower than the SGA level for a full 36 months. This is referred to as an extended period of eligibility. But if you earn more than $1,130 a month in any given month, you won’t get your SSDI benefits for that particular month.
If your SSDI benefits are halted because you are able to earn a substantial income, the Social Security Administration allows up to five years during which your benefits can be reinstated because your disability has rendered you unable to work. The upside of this is you don’t have to re-apply for benefits because you will have access to an “expedited reinstatement.”
If during the trial work period, you lose your job, your disability benefits won’t be in jeopardy. However, if you lose your job in the course of the 36 months after the trial work period, you would need to contact the Social Security Administration so your benefits could be reinstated.
If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Working While Disabled – How Can We Help? 2016, Social Security Administration
More Blog Entries:
Worker Taxed Thousands for Social Security Disability Benefits He Never Received, June 21, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog