Like so many government programs, the details of Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can be challenging. A common question is, "Can I work and still receive benefits?" Information that answers this question is provided by Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates.
The answer to this question about (SSD) is, "It depends." In many instances, you can work for limited amounts of time or for a limited amounts of income if you receive SSD benefits and start working. You must report any income you make. Whether your benefits are reduced or stopped as a result of working depends on several factors.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides several options to people who wish to work or try to work while receiving SSD or SSI benefits. One such program is called a Trial Work Period. This is intended to help beneficiaries determine whether they can work. During the trial period, they can work for up to nine months in any five-year period. They must report their work activity and continue to be disabled. In 2014, a person testing his or her ability to work is considered to be working if a recipient's total work earnings are more than $770 per month. During the Trial Work Period there is no reduction in SSD or SSI benefits. There is no cap on how much you can earn during the trial period.
After the trial period, you can work and continue to receive benefits if your work income is $1,070 per month or less ($1,800 if you are blind). This is known as the Extended Period of Eligibility. You don't have to file another application or obtain another disability decision from the SSA in order to do this. This period can last for up to 36 months.
In addition to continuing to receive SSD or SSI benefits for these limited periods, recipients of disability benefits will continue to receive Medicare or Medicaid for some time while they work. If you continue to work after the trial period and the expanded eligibility periods and earn too much to continue receiving benefits, you can start receiving benefits again if you find yourself unable to keep working. This is called Expedited Reinstatement. Eligibility for this lasts for up to five years after you stopped receiving SSD benefits because you were earning too much.
In either the Trial Period or the Expanded Eligibility Period, you may be able to deduct certain expenses related to working, such as taking a taxi to work or paying for training or counselling. Deducting such expenses may allow you to stay under the earnings threshold imposed by the Expanded Eligibility program.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) has somewhat different rules. Essentially, any income earned over $85 per month reduces SSI benefits by $.50 for every dollar earned. Moreover, each state has slightly different rules that make it more difficult to predict what people could earn. It also may be possible to deduct expenses related to implementing a plan to achieve self-sufficiency.
For more information about working and disability benefits, visit the Binder & Binder website.