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Working in Pennsylvania and Qualifying for Social Security Disability. Dec 26, 2016

Is it possible to work and continue to receive Social Security disability payments? Some people who receive Social Security Disability Benefits or Supplemental Security Income are anxious that if they work, it will affect their monthly benefits.  Social Security maintains rules directed to help people continue to receive monthly payments while trying part-time or full-time work.  It can help to be familiar with these rules before job-hunting, to make sure you do not jeopardize disability payments.  Returning to work and maintaining benefits coverage can be complex. For this reason, Social Security maintains an online answer as well as a booklet of information concerning the question of whether returning to work will affect benefits.

 

Trial Work Period and Extended Period of Eligibility

A Trial Work Period is a period of time (nine months over a 60-month period) during which you can receive full Social Security benefits.  You are required to report you work to the Social Security Administration.  If you earn over $810, or if you are self-employed and earn more than $810 or worked over 80 hours a month, you are considered to have a trial work month.

An Extended Period of Eligibility follows a trial period, during which you have 36 months during which you can receive your benefits and work. The Administration requires that your earnings not be “substantial,” which is defined as over the substantial gainful activity (SGA). In 2016 that number was $1130 for non-blind individuals (and $1,820 for the blind).  During this period, your benefits continue if you are not earning above the SGA, and if you remain medically disabled.

Once income passes the substantial gainful activity threshold, disability benefits “cease.”  There is a two-month grace period.  According to the Administration, of benefits stop because of SGA earnings, you have five years to restart the benefits if your medical condition prevents you from working. After five years, it is necessary to file a new application.

Will My Earnings Affect My Social Security Benefits?

It is important to note that work experiences related to the disability may be deducted from monthly earnings.  If you pay out-of-pocket for medical supplies, or service animal related costs, these can be deducted from the earnings that determine your eligibility.  Additionally, counseling services, transportation costs, personal attendant needs, or wheelchairs may be considered work expenses. While these expenses are also useful in your daily living, Social Security allows for the deduction of these costs before earnings are counted, and determined to effect eligibility for disability.

Medicare continues during the Trial Work period and Extended Period of Eligibility. Medical coverage comes with Social Security disability benefits, two years after you have become entitled to Social Security disability benefits.  At the end of the Trial Work Period you will receive Medicare coverage for 93 additional months.  This coverage applies even if you are working and earning SGA during that 93-month period.  After that, if you receive disability benefits following the Extended Period of Eligibility, then you will also be covered by Medicare.

Will I Lose my Benefits if a Continuing Disability Review Takes Place

A Trial Work period may make some disability recipients nervous that Social Security will be triggered to conduct a Continuing Disability Review (CD).  The fact is, these reviews are conducted randomly by Social Security.  Simply because you have embarked on a Trial Work Period will not incentivize Social Security to conduct a review.  If a review does take place, your medical records are the focus of the review, and not your trial work.

It is important to report to the Social Security administration that you have begun work, or to report a change in your duties or hours. These can be reported online.

At Needle law, our skilled Pennsylvania attorneys have decades experience regarding Social Security benefits and maintaining coverage. We have helped clients apply for benefits, and provided assistance through the process. If you or a family member is receiving disability benefits and considering a return to the workforce, our office can help. Contact us today at 570-344-1266.

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