Even though you were unable to work while recovering and going through treatment for a disabling medical condition, there may come a time when you are anxious to get back to your position. However, you probably have numerous concerns about what is involved if you return to work when you have been receiving benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. For instance:
- You may doubt whether you can perform essential job duties in light of your medical condition;
- You may be skeptical about finding a position, especially if you were out of the workforce for some time; and/or,
- You know how difficult it was to get approved for SSDI benefits the first time, so you do not want to put your status at risk or go through the claims process again.
Fortunately, there are options for people who want to work despite a disabling injury or ailment – but who also need the financial security that SSDI benefits can provide. In fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages you to explore work-related opportunities by offering various programs to support your transition back to the workforce. Your South Carolina Social Security disability attorney can describe the details, but here are five things to know about returning to work and SSDI.
- The key is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). When you are already receiving SSDI for a disabling medical condition, you cannot work at a certain level and continue to receive benefits. The threshold is measured in terms of earnings, so you could become ineligible for benefits once you reach the point that you are making an amount that meets SGA. This income level changes every year to account for inflation and other factors, but it is $1,260 for 2020.
- Your return starts with a Trial Work Period (TWP). SSA expects that you will need some time to adjust to working again, assess how your activities affect your disability, and decide whether you want to continue at your position. During the nine-month period of your TWP, you will receive full SSDI benefits regardless of whether you are meeting SGA. Note that the months that count toward your TWP do not need to be consecutive.
- You may still work under an Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). Even after your TWP expires, you have a fallback with SSDI benefits through your EPE. You may be eligible to receive payments for any month in which your earnings fall short of the SGA for that year.
- Expedited Reinstatement protects your future. If your SSDI benefits terminate because you are making income above the SGA threshold, you have an added layer of protection in transitioning to the workforce: SSA allows you five years as an expedited reinstatement period, so you can start to receive SSDI payments quickly without going through the initial application process.
- Be mindful of fraud and working “off” the books. SSA recognizes that SSDI recipients may be tempted to work and earn an income, while also collecting benefits. Doing so is a form of fraud that carries both criminal and civil penalties. It is important to remember your duty to report changes in your situation to SSA, including accepting employment.
Return to Work with Guidance from a South Carolina Social Security Disability Lawyer