If you are on social security disability or SSI disability should you try to work?
This is what I would tell anyone who is in the process of applying for disability or who is currently receiving disability benefits from the social security administration who may have pondered the thought of, at some point, trying to return to work.
If you decide that you'd like to try work activity again, make sure that you understand:
1) You need to report all work activity to the social security administration.
2) After you become eligible for social security disability or SSI you are entitled to nine trial work months. During your trial work months you can basically work with no limit to what you earn. What's more, your nine trial work months do not have to be consecutive and can occur anytime within a five year period. Since this is a rolling five year period, it can take a long long time to exhaust your trial work months if you have multiple experiences where you attempt work for awhile and then cease working.
3) If you exhaust your trial work months, you become ineligible for disability benefits if you earn at least the SGA substantial gainful activity amount. In the month following the end of your trial work period, the 10th month, your benefits will be suspended if you are earning the SGA amount or greater.
4) If you were receiving social security disability and not SSI disability, you will be given an extended period of eligibility or EPE. This is a 36 month timeframe during which, if you stop working, your social security disability benefits can be reinstated regardless of your earnings.
5) After the 36 month extended period of eligibility is over, any month for which you earn at least the SGA amount will cause your disability benefits to terminate.
6) If you later discover that, due to the same medical problems that got you approved for disability benefits, you have to stop working, you can apply for what is known as an expedited reinstatement of your disability benefits. This may occur within five years of your previous disability termination month. Expedited reinstatements allow you to have six months of provisional payments while Social Security makes a medical determination. If you are found disabled, your disability benefits will be reinstated.
Final note: its understandable that some people who get approved for disability would like to oneday re-enter the workforce. However, you need to be very careful about this, so that you can avoid having interruptions in your benefits and, particularly, you can avoid cessations of your benefits and overpayment situations. Also, individuals who continue to work while receiving benefits and still stay below the limits for SGA and work-triggered reviews should be particularly mindful, if they were approved on the basis of a mental condition, how their work activity might be viewed by someone who reviews their claim in the future.
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