Twenty years ago, I was on SSDI for several years. When I felt well enough to try returning to the workforce, I worried I’d lose my benefits and not have the health to work. I did it anyway and it worked out for me. But I wish that the Return to Work program was available then. It would have made the transition a lot less worrisome. I’m told things are different now.
This post was contributed by Molly Clarke, the Social Media Coordinator for Social Security Disability Help. She contributes regularly to the Social Security Disability Help Blog.
Returning to work after receiving disability benefits can be overwhelming and confusing. While most people would prefer to regain their health and return to work, many don’t know where to start and worry about losing the safety net of disability benefits. If you find yourself facing these circumstances, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has implemented several incentive programs to ease your transition back into the workforce. This makes it possible for disabled workers to return to work slowly without having to jeopardize their benefits.
The following article will provide step-by-step instructions to help you get back to work.
The SSA’s primary work incentive program is called “Ticket to Work”. This program was started as a way to remove the barriers that were preventing SSD recipients from returning to work. This program offers the following services:
• Job training to teach you how to perform different types of work that will be less impacted by your health condition.
• Job referrals
• Vouchers or credits to cover work-related expenses like transportation fees or assistive technology.
• Continuation of SSDI, SSI, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits while partaking in the program.
• Suspension of continuing disability reviews while partaking in the program.
• A “Trial Work Period” during which you can attempt to work without jeopardizing your benefits.
TRIAL WORK PERIOD
One of the most useful aspect of Ticket to Work program is trial work period. If you choose to partake in the trial work period, you will continue to receive benefits regularly for nine months. You should note that a month will only count toward your trial work period if you earn $750. The months of your trial work period do not need to be consecutive. It will only end after you’ve earned at least $750 in nine months within a five year period. This security will allow you to return to work without losing your benefits if your work attempt fails.
During your trial work period, you must provide the SSA with the following information:
• Changes in your hours or work schedule
• Changes in your assigned duties or pay
• Expenses used to accommodate your return to work, including things like assistive devices and transportation fees.
You can report these changes in person, by fax, or by calling your local Social Security office
AFTER YOUR TRIAL WORK PERIOD
Once your trial work period is complete, the SSA will evaluate your ability to earn Substantial Gainful Activity—or SGA. In 2013, SGA is $1,040 per month. If your average earnings during your trial work period average or exceed SGA, your benefits will be discontinued. If your earnings do not exceed SGA, you will continue to receive your benefits.
At the end of your trial work period you will enter what is known as an, “Extended Period of Eligibility”, or EPE. EPE lasts a total of 36 months. During this time, your SSDI benefit will be determined on a monthly basis. Months in which you exceed SGA you will not receive a check. Months in which you do not exceed SGA you will receive your benefits. After the EPE is complete, your benefits will be terminated the first month in which your income exceeds SGA.
If, after the EPE, your benefits are discontinued and you cannot continue to work, you will have access to expedited reinstatement of your benefits. You can file for expedited reinstatement within five years after your benefits are initially terminated. While waiting for your expedited claim to be processed, the SSA will provide you with disability benefits for 6 months while they determine whether or not you still meet the eligibility requirements.
If you are ready to return to work, you should contact the SSA to learn more about the available work incentives and to see exactly how your benefits will be affected.
For more information, visit Social Security Disability Help (http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/glossary/ticket-to-work) or contact Molly Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org .