Social Security Disability SSI, Work, and the Unsuccessful Work Attempt
I received the following question in a comment recently. The comment is reprinted and followed by my response to it--
I worked while receiving benefits. I was careful not to go over the GPA for the year. Yet they are reviewing me and they say I have used 5 months of my trial period. After that I wold go enter into Extended Period of Eligibility. This is back in 2005 and 2006. It is now 2009. SS office said after that...any month I made over the GPA I would not get a check. I have gone over the GPA perhaps 20 bucks. since this happened in 2005 and 2007 what will happen? Will I have to repay them for a whole month even if I just made as little as 20 bucks. I did not work at all in 2008. What will happen? Will I stop receiving checks for the total of months i went over GPA even if it was a long time ago..or will I have to repay it all?
You kept using the phrase GPA when I believe you meant SGA or substantial gainful activity. However, it appears that you have a fairly good understanding of how work affects your ability to receive a monthly disability check. In your post, you stated that you had been careful to stay under the SGA monthly earnings amount while your were working. Social Security allows all disability beneficiaries to have nine trial work months (trial work months have no earnings limit) in a five year rolling period, and if I have read your post correctly, you have only used five of those trial work months. Your extended period of eligibility would not begin until you have used your nine trial work months (remember, these months do not have to be consecutive).
Once your thirty six month extended period of eligibility begins, you are not entitled to receive a disability benefit check for any month you worked and earned over the SGA amount unless those months constituted an unsuccessful work attempt. An unsuccessful work attempt might be considered if you worked less than six months at the SGA amount.
If your work lasted three months or less and you had to stop work due to your disabling condition you are entitled to an unsuccessful work attempt. If your work lasted more than three months but less than six months, you must provide proof that you were frequently absent,or your work was unsatisfactory due to your impairment; or you worked while your were in a temporary remission of your impairment; or you worked with special conditions that enabled you to do your job and those conditions were removed in order for your work to be considered an unsuccessful work attempt. Any work over the SGA amount that lasted six months or more cannot be considered an unsuccessful work attempt.
If Social Security finds that your work activity was an unsuccessful work attempt those months will not be counted as SGA and you will not owe any money to Social Security.
Without knowing exactly how many of your trial work months you used, I can only guess that you may have only completed your trial work months. If that is the case you would owe Social Security no money. If you did work some months in your EPE but were forced to stop working or reduce your earnings below the SGA amount in less than six months you may be eligible for an unsuccessful work attempt, consequently you would owe Social Security no money.
However if you do not qualify for an unsuccessful work attempt and you are in your EPE, you owe Social Security for any month that you were paid a
benefit and worked over the substantial gainful activity amount (SGA) even if it was a long time ago. Social Security will send you a formal notice if you have an overpayment.
Fortunately, Social Security is fairly liberal with the repayment of overpayments and I am sure you can work out a payment arrangement with them.
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