You are grateful for the Social Security disability benefits that you have been collecting. At the time you applied for Social Security disability and throughout the time that you have been receiving benefits, you have been totally disabled and unable to earn an income.
Now, however, something has changed. Perhaps your cancer is in remission or a new medication is treating your neurological impairment. Regardless of the specific change, you think that you might be able to return to work, but you aren’t sure. You are concerned that if you do return to work and discover that your medical condition still prevents you from working, you will lose your Social Security disability (SSD) benefits.
Roadblocks to Returning to Work
While you may want to return to work, it can be difficult to do so when you are receiving support from Social Security and dealing with a disability. You may need new vocational training in order to enter a new field, or you may need to catch up in the field you worked in prior to becoming disabled.
Additionally, you may not know whether or not you can successfully return to the workforce with your disability. You may fear that working will exacerbate your condition or that your condition will prevent you from completing your assigned tasks, and you may be nervous that you will put your Social Security disability payments in jeopardy.
Training May Be Available
If you are unable to go back to the same type of work that you did prior to becoming disabled, you may need training to do another type of work. The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) may be able to help you. DARS receives both state and federal money to provide training, education, and other types of assistance to people in order to help them obtain work.
The role of DARS is to help people who are unable to do their past work because of an impairment, whether physical or mental, that has made that work impossible. Depending on your needs, DARS may pay for you to go to school, train you in classes at their facilities, or pay for medical treatment that will allow you to return to work.
Because DARS has limited funding, they cannot help everyone who contacts them, but they will conduct physical and/or mental evaluations to determine whether they think they can help a person return to work in some capacity. If they evaluate you and determine that, due to your health, they cannot help you, they typically will state that in writing and you may show that to a judge as evidence that you tried to return to work, but were unable to do so because of your impairments.
The Trial Work Period
The Social Security Administration obviously wants you to return to work if you have the ability to do so. To help recipients of disability benefits make the transition back to the working world go as smoothly as possible, they have created a trial work period program that allows those wishing to support themselves to try working while receiving benefits.
More specifically, the Social Security Administration allows you to work for up to nine months before giving up your SSD benefits. However, you should be aware of the following before you go back to work:
- The nine months you work need not be consecutive months, but should occur within a 60-month period.
- The amount that you are eligible to earn each month is reconsidered on an annual basis. In 2016, you could earn no more than $1130 per month ($1820 if you are blind) while you continue to collect Social Security disability benefits.
- If you are self-employed, the number of hours that you can work each month is limited.
- Your SSD may be reinstated if you are unable to work again due to your disability. This reinstatement period is limited to five years. After that, you may need to reapply for SSD benefits.
It is also important to know that the Social Security Administration can change these rules at any time.
Your Ticket to Work
The Ticket to Work program is run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Many people who qualify for Social Security disability benefits qualify for this program. If you are interested in going back to work, the Ticket to Work program may help you increase your earning potential and your ability to succeed in the workplace.
Before you even begin to consider the Ticket to Work program, there are some things you should know, specifically:
- This program is totally free and completely voluntary.
- You are allowed to keep your Medicaid or Medicare benefits while you participate in this program.
- Nothing is likely to happen to your Social Security disability benefits, at first. If you are participating in the Ticket to Work program and making good progress toward your employment goal, the SSA will not review your Social Security disability eligibility.
However, if the Ticket to Work program is successful for you, you will go back to work and earn enough money that you may no longer be eligible for benefits. It may remain possible, though, for you to get Social Security disability benefits in the future if your situation changes and your disability makes it impossible for you to work.
Going back to work is a big decision and one that must be made only after considering the impact of work on your health. If you have any questions about how going back to work may impact your Social Security disability benefits, please start a live chat with us now.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.