Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been receiving SSDI benefits for three years. While I know I don’t have the physical capacity to work full-time, I do feel like I could so some part-time work. Can I do part-time work or will I jeopardize my SSDI benefits?”
Part-time work and receiving SSDI benefits
Social Security Disability Insurance is provided to workers who are disabled for at least 12 continuous months and who are not able to perform substantial gainful activity, which in 2017 is considered making $1170 per month. If you can work and earn this amount the SSA will consider you not disabled, regardless of the severity of your health condition.
Now you mentioned that you would like to do part-time work. If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance you will need to contact the SSA if you start or stop work, your work hours, pay, or duties change, or you start paying expenses related to your work because of your disability. Failure to notify the SSA when you start part-time work can jeopardize your SSDI benefits and might result in an overpayment of benefits.
Trial work period and testing your ability to do part-time work
The best option for you if you think your earnings might be more than a few hundred dollars per month is to consider utilizing the SSA’s trial work period program. Under this program you would be allowed to test your ability to work for at least 9 months without jeopardizing your right to receive benefits.
For example, in 2017, a trial work month is any month your total earnings are over $840 per month. The trial work period continues until you have worked nine months within a 60-month period. After your trial work period is over you will have another 36 months in which you can continue to receive benefits, assuming your earnings are not substantial (which is making $1170 or more in a month). After this extended period of eligibility, you can lose your SSDI benefits if your income is substantial, but you will have five years to restart your benefits utilizing an expedited reinstatement.
Benefits of a trial work period
The benefits of a trial work period are you are able to continue to receive SSDI and test your ability to work. You will also continue to receive Medicare. If you find that you are unable to work during the trial work period, you can stop working and continue receiving SSDI benefits.
The downside to the trial work period is the whole process can be a bit complicated. Claimants may also get confused and lose their benefits because they didn’t understand the rolling nine- month trial work period.
If you are going to work VERY part-time and earn a few hundred dollars per month the SSA may not care. In some cases, however, claimants have lost their benefits after returning to work, especially if they make too much money or work too many hours (regardless of pay or profit). In these cases, after a review of your case, the SSA might decide your condition has improved enough for you to return to work. For this reason, some claimants find it safer to test their ability to work through the trial work period.
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