Working while on Social Security Disability
Applicants for and recipients of Social Security Disability benefits have many questions regarding the process, but one of the most common questions is whether working while on social security disability will make me ineligible for benefits. The short answer is not necessarily, however, there are some pitfalls you will need to be aware of.
Social Security has placed renewed emphasis in encouraging disability recipients to work. You may have received a brochure for Social Security promoting its “Ticket to Work” program. In that brochure, the Social Security Administration promises continued monthly payments while you begin working, and even an expedited return to disability status should your work attempt fail. Before attempting to utilize the programs, please be sure to read the fine print.
The first pitfall that people find themselves in often involves the “trial work period.” This is the time period that Social Security permits you to receive your full benefit regardless of how much you earn. Anytime that you earn more than $780 in a month can be counted as part of the trial work period. The trial work period can last up to nine months. However, it is easy to miscalculate the amount of trial work you have engaged in. The nine counted months can be any nine months in a rolling 60 month time period. If you try to work for several months, fail, and then try it again several years later, it is easy to exceed the nine month total without realizing it. And if Social Security does not notice this until later, it will claim to have overpaid you your full benefit for each month exceeding the nine months, and demand repayment.
The second pitfall is Social Security’s vague claim to permit expedited reinstatement of benefits for five years, without having to file a new application and prove again that you are disabled. This is supposed to occur for a time after benefits stop due to your engagement in substantial work. In practice, however, such a period of substantial earnings often imputes learned skills that Social Security can claim you did not have prior to the work, and this can be used by Social Security to assert that you are no longer precluded from all employment in light of your newly acquired skills. Even if the position did not require complex skills, the period of employment can still be held against your claim of continued disability. This is more likely the case if your condition does not specifically fall within the listings of impairments in the Social Security Regulations.
If you attempt to work, it is very important to tell Social Security right away if you start or stop work, and to keep Social Security updated as to your earnings. Social Security will give you a receipt to confirm what you reported. You will need to save these receipts for future reference in case problems arise, and they often do. In order to avoid these common pitfalls as well as other potential issues in your attempts to work while receiving Social Security Disability, please contact a Harrisburg Social Security Attorney if you are considering such a move.