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Employee Disability Benefit

Transitioning Back To Work After Receiving Disability Benefits

Published July 25, 2017

By Stacy Sadove, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are generally available to adults only when they cannot participate in a substantial gainful employment due to a disability. Sometimes beneficiaries want to try returning to work, but are concerned about losing their benefits. One option to transition from disability to working is to participate in the Ticket to Work Program.

Under the Ticket to Work program, which is free and voluntary, beneficiaries with disabilities can sign up with an approved service provider to get help find and maintain employment. Free services such as vocational rehabilitation, career counseling, training, job placement and continuing support services may be available.

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While a beneficiary is participating in the Ticket to Work program, a variety of work incentives may be available to maintain income and health insurance while testing the ability to return to work. The individual can continue to have access to Medicaid and/or Medicare, and some work incentives include the ability to continue receiving a portion of financial benefits for a period of time.

For example, one work incentive that applies to SSDI benefits, but not SSI benefits, is known as the Trial Work Period, which allows a beneficiary to return to work but not lose their benefits for the first nine months. The months do not have to be consecutive, but once nine months have been used in a five-year period, the Trial Work Period is exhausted and the SSDI benefits will end. However, even at the end of the Trial Work Period, the beneficiary will be considered to be in an “extended period of eligibility” for 36 consecutive months, during which eligibility for SSDI benefits is determined on a month-to-month basis, so it is still possible to receive benefits in months in which you earn less than the “substantial gainful activity” amount ($1,170 in 2017). Finally, anytime during the five years after benefits stop due to work activity, an individual is eligible for “expedited reinstatement,” which means that benefits can be restarted automatically for six months while Social Security processes an individual’s application for benefits.

Visit SSA.GOV to find more information.

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