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How Much Work Can I Do While on SSDI Benefits?

If you are disabled and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you still may be able to get a ticket to work.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has provisions that allow disabled workers who receive SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) to test their ability to work for up to nine months, called a “trial work period,” and still get a monthly check. As long as you report your work to the SSA, and you continue to suffer from a disabling condition, you remain eligible — no matter how much you are earning.

Rules for 2012 define a trial work month as any where you earn at least $720. You may be self-employed, but you have to put in a minimum of 80 hours that month working in your own business. The trial work period is limited to nine months over a five year period.

When your trial work period is over, you have 36 months of work eligibility, as long as your earnings are not “substantial.” That is defined as income over $1,010 for the non-blind in 2012, or $1,680 if you are blind.

If you have the desire to get back into work while on disability, Social Security can help. The “Ticket to Work” programs just might be the answer. This program applies to both SSI and SSDI, but the programs have some differences in requirements.

Under these programs, you may get vocational rehabilitation, job training, job referrals and other free employment services, and you won’t have to submit to medical reviews of your disability status. You are required, however, to demonstrate you’re “making timely progress pursuing your back-to-work plan,” meaning full time work is your ultimate goal.

There is a program called “Work Incentives Planning and Assistance” (WIPA), through which you can get help from community-based organizations. These groups provide information and planning assistance for people under the SSI or SSDI benefits. These WIPA programs can help you sort through the government’s requirements.

When your earnings become “substantial” and your benefits end, you have five years to apply to have your benefits immediately resume if your condition worsens and you’re again unable to work. This is referred to as “expedited reinstatement.” Under this rule, you won’t have to reapply for benefits and start a new benefits application. Also, there will be no delay in the resumption of benefits while the SSA reviews your disability status.

If your earnings cancel your SSDI benefits but you are still disabled, your Medicare Part A coverage will continue for at least 93 months after the none month trial work period ends. This coverage is free. After the 93 month period, you may pay a monthly premium to buy Medicare Part A coverage. If you’re on Medicare Part B coverage, however, you must continue paying the premium. A request to end Part B coverage must be submitted to the SSA in writing.

For more information on the Ticket to Work program, visit, or call 1-866-968-7842 (TTY 1-866-833-2967). Ask them to send you booklet number 05-10061, “Your Ticket to Work.”

For more information on WIPA, and to find your local WIPA project, call 1-866-968-7842 (TTY 1-866-833-2967).

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