Social Security Disability And Working


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The Facts On Social Security Disability Insurance And Supplemental Security Income For Workers With Disabilities

New Rules for Working While Applying for Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income provide critical lifelines for the roughly 12 million people with disabilities in the United States.

Nearly one out of every six working-age Americans29.5 million peoplehas a disability, making them much more likely to experience economic hardship than people without disabilities. Many people with disabilities are able to work, although they face greater challenges finding work than people without disabilities. But many individuals with severe and long-lasting disabilities have no or only limited capacity to work and are particularly vulnerable to economic hardship.

For roughly 12 million people with disabilities, Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, both core components of our nations Social Security system, provide critical lifelines. The modest but vital assistance that Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security provide makes it possible for individuals with severe disabilities and health conditions to live independently, keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and pay for needed, often life-sustaining medications and other basic expenses.

Whats The Difference Between Ssi And Ssdi Benefits

In terms of work credits, the difference between Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is that Supplemental Security Income provides Disability benefits to low-income disabled people who cant work or havent worked long enough to qualify for 40 credits. Social Security Disability Insurance provides benefits to disabled people with enough work history to qualify for 40 credits.

Information For Military & Veterans

Social Security pays disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program and the Supplemental Security Income program. SSDI is for workers and certain family members if they worked long enough and recently enough to qualify for benefits. SSI is for people who are 65 or older, as well as people of any age, including children, who are blind or have disabilities. To be considered eligible for SSI, you must also have income and resources below specific financial limits.

Before you apply for Social Security disability benefits, please review the to make sure you understand what to expect during the application process. Also, gather the information and documents youll need to complete an application.

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Can You Do Any Other Type Of Work

If you cant do the work you did in the past, we look to see if there is other work you could do despite your medical impairment.

We consider your medical conditions, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills you may have. If you cant do other work, well decide you qualify for disability benefits. If you can do other work, well decide that you dont have a qualifying disability and your claim will be denied.

What Is Ssas Ticket To Work Program

Can You Work While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits ...

Not only can you work while receiving benefits, SSA has programs in place to help you find appropriate employment. Their Ticket to Work program will provide you with free employment services that include:

  • Access to your states Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
  • Assistance developing work and employment goals
  • Temporary relief from continuing disability reviews

As part of the Ticket to Work program, you can enjoy a trial work period. During this time a minimum of nine months your benefits will not be impacted by your earnings as long as you comply with SSAs reporting guidelines.

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How Earned Income Impacts Your Benefits

When the Social Security Administration figures out your Supplemental Security Income benefits, they count your income using a special countable income calculation. This calculation counts less than half of your earned income. If you get SSI and start working, the combined amount you get from work and SSI will always be higher than your SSI benefits alone. Learn more about how SSI counts earned income in DB101s SSI article.

If you get Social Security Disability Insurance , a Trial Work Period lets you try work for up to nine months while still getting your full SSDI benefits, no matter how much you earn. Each month you earn more than the Trial Work Level is called a Trial Work Month, and your full SSDI benefits continue if you still meet all the other requirements. You can have up to nine Trial Work Months within a five-year period.

After your Trial Work Period ends, a three-year Extended Period of Eligibility lets you work and get SSDI benefits for every month your earnings are at or below the Substantial Gainful Activity level . And for the first five years after you stop getting benefits, Expedited Reinstatement means that if your earned income drops below the SGA level, you can quickly get back on SSDI benefits without having to completely reapply. Learn more about SSDIs work rules in DB101s SSDI article.

Why Is There A Shortfall In The Disability Insurance Trust Fund And What Can Be Done About It

As described above, Disability Insurance is funded by a dedicated share of payroll tax contributions0.9 percent of taxable wages paid by workers and the same amount by employers. Since the mid-1990s the Social Security Administration has consistently projected that the Disability Insurance trust fund would have sufficient reserves to cover all scheduled benefits until 2016, but that after that date, additional funds would be needed to avoid a shortfall in the necessary funds to continue paying full benefits. If no action is taken to address the shortfall, the Disability Insurance trust fund will only be able to pay 80 percent of scheduled benefit levels after 2016.

Congress has addressed similar shortfallsin both the Disability Insurance trust fund and the Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund, which pays retirement benefitsnearly a dozen times in the past by temporarily reallocating the share of overall payroll tax revenues that is dedicated to each trust fund. In some cases, they have reallocated funds from the Disability Insurance trust fund to the Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund in others, they have reallocated funds from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund to the Disability Insurance trust fund.

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Can I Work While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits

We often find that many of our clients really struggle with the feeling that they have lost their productivity and ability to earn an income while being on disability. Most people have worked their entire lives and to find they can no longer do so is emotionally challenging and draining. They want to work, but their disabilities have drastically affected what they can do. Many feel that they can work some and often ask us if they can work part time while receiving benefits.

We are not one to discourage people from working. In fact, the Social Security Administration does allow claimants to work part time hours and earn up to $1,130/month . However, there are several factors claimants should consider before working part time. First and foremost, its important to really consider your health and the toll working may take on you. Its hard to believe we cannot do something that we were once able to do so easily, and its even harder to accept. However, your health is what is most important. Second, the SSA has very strict rules and guidelines, and its important to be familiar with them before starting a part time position.

Social Security Disability: Ticket To Work Helped Some Participants But Overpayments Increased Program Costs

Can you work if you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits?


The Ticket to Work program seeks to help those receiving Social Security disability benefits find jobs and reduce reliance on benefits.

We found:

  • Participants earned an estimated $2,451 more per year and were slightly more likely to leave the disability rolls than similar nonparticipants
  • From 2002 through 2015, program costs exceeded the savings in benefits by about $806 million
  • Overpayments cost an estimated additional $133-169 million

We recommended that the Social Security Administration identify the root causes of these overpayments and take steps to address them.

Estimated Net Loss to the Social Security Administration from the Ticket to Work Program, 2002-2015

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Expedited Reinstatement Of Benefits

At the end of the EPE there is an additional five year period called âexpedited reinstatement of benefits.â If the original impairment flairs up within five years of the end of the 36-month EPE, preventing the individual from earning SGA, Social Security can reinstate the SSDI benefits provisionally while a medical review is completed. If the medical review confirms the disability condition or blindness, then the provisional SSDI benefits will be made permanent. If the medical review concludes that there is not a medical disability, SSDI benefits will be immediately terminated but with no overpayment for benefits paid provisionally.

Iii: Who Receives Ssdi

Eligibility criteria are strict, and most SSDI applicants are rejected. Applicants for SSDI benefits must be

  • Insured for disability benefits .
  • Suffering from a severe, medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to last 12 months or result in death, based on clinical findings from acceptable medical sources.
  • Unable to perform substantial gainful activity anywhere in the national economy regardless of whether such work exists in the area where the applicant lives, whether a specific job vacancy exists, or whether he or she would be hired.

Lack of education and low skills are considered for older, severely impaired applicants who cant realistically change careers but not for younger applicants.

There is a five-month waiting period for SSDI, but Supplemental Security Income may be available during that period for poor beneficiaries with little or no income and assets.

SSA denies applicants who are technically disqualified and sends the rest to state disability determination services for medical evaluation. Applicants denied at that stage may ask for a reconsideration by the same state agency, and then appeal to an administrative law judge at SSA. Roughly half of people who get an initial denial pursue an appeal.

SSA monitors disability decisions at all stages of the process. SSA conducts ongoing quality reviews at all stages of the application and appeal process. Many reviews occur before any benefits are paid, thus reducing errors.

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Extended Period Of Eligibility

So how does SGA affect a personâs eligibility to continue receiving his or her SSDI check? After the individual has accumulated 9 months of a TWP, he or she then has a 36- month period referred to as an âextended period of eligibilityâ . During the EPE, Social Security looks at whether earnings in any given month exceed the applicable SGA amount, after taking into account any gross wage reductions for IRWE or work subsidies. If adjusted net earnings exceed the applicable SGA amount, Social Security will make a determination of cessation of disability. The SSDI benefit amount will be terminated after the third month from the cessation of disability month. If wages drop below the SGA amount in any given month during the 36-month EPE, the SSDI benefit amount will be reinstated.

The importance of the EPE is that an individual can again receive the SSDI benefit amount in any month during the 36-month period when countable earnings fall below the SGA amount.

Social Security Prototype Bill

Audio Archives

AMACs founder, Dan Weber, has been in the forefront of the fight to address the problems facing Americas Social Security program. Put simply, the program is paying out more than its taking in, causing a gradual depletion of the Social Security Trust Fund. If left unchecked, projections are that this depletion will cause the Trust Fund balance to be exhausted by 2034, with the result being a scale-down of paymentsas much as 25%to Social Security recipients. As an action-oriented association, AMAC is resolved to do its part to call for action on this very serious problem.Most recently, AMAC has developed a bipartisan compromise bill, titled Social Security Guarantee Act,” taking selected portions of bills introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson and Rep. John Larson and merging them with the Associations original legislative framework to create the new Act.AMAC representatives have been resolute in their mission to get the attention of lawmakers in Washington, meeting with many, many congressional offices and their legislative staffs over the past several years. The Association is gaining ground every day, and you can help–support AMAC in this fight by contacting your congressional representative to add your voice! Visit the Associations website at to learn more about AMACs proposed solution and to obtain a copy of a document outlining the steps that AMAC advocates to resolve this very serious problem.

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Experts Advice: Dont Go It Alone

Vieillet says the intricacies of each program are confusing, even to the experts. For the average person, it can be downright overwhelming.

When letters from Social Security start coming in the mail, they scare the bejesus out of people, says Teresa Nier, benefits and employment manager with My Employment Options.

You always want people to work to their fullest potential, of course. This is America. Thats one of our foundational ideals.

For disabled workers, joining a free work-incentive program and employment network can help. Ticket to Work offers benefits protection for recipients who want to test the employment waters. And organizations like My Employment Options have certified benefits counselors on staff to help applicants trudge through the paperwork and fine print all while finding a job that fits their unique needs.

To avoid unexpected benefits cuts or having to return overpayments to the agency, people need to keep Social Security updated with phone numbers and addresses, Nier says. Open those letters. Ask questions.

Adam Hardy is a former staff writer for The Penny Hoarder. Robert Bruce, a senior writer with The Penny Hoarder, contributed. This story was originally published in July 2019. Income thresholds and other statistics have been updated for 2022.

Number Of Credits Needed For Disability Benefits

To be eligible for disability benefits, you must meet a recent work test and a duration work test.

The number of credits necessary to meet the recent work test depends on your age. The rules are as follows:

  • Before age 24 – You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts.
  • Age 24 to 31 In general, you may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time your disability began. As a general example, if you develop a disability at age 27, you would need 3 years of work out of the past 6 years .
  • Age 31 or older – In general, you must have at least 20 credits in the 10-year period immediately before your disability began.

The following table shows how many years of work credits you need to meet the duration of work test based on your age when your disability began. For the duration of work test, your work does not have to fall within a certain period. The table only provides an estimate of how many work credits you need. It does not cover all situations. If you are statutorily blind, you must only meet the duration of work test. When statutory blindness is involved, there is not a recent work test requirement.

NOTE: This table is an estimate only and does not cover all situations

If you develop a disability… Then you generally need:
9.5 years

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How Many People Currently Receive Social Security Disability Benefits And What Is The Value Of The Benefits They Receive

About 8.8 million workers with disabilities currently receive Disability Insurance. The amount of Disability Insurance benefits that a disabled worker receives is based on his or her earnings before becoming disabled. As Table 1 shows, Disability Insurance benefits typically replace less than half of a disabled workers previous earnings.

As of March 2013, the average monthly benefit for a disabled worker was about $1,129, with male workers receiving $1,255 per month and female workers receiving $993 per month on average. About 1.9 million children of disabled workers and 160,000 spouses of disabled workers also receive supplemental benefits from Social Securityroughly $300 a month on average.

For most beneficiaries of Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security, disability benefits make up most or all of their income. For the vast majority of Disability Insurance beneficiariesabout 71 percenthalf or more of their income comes from Disability Insurance. And for nearly half of beneficiaries, 90 percent or more of their income comes from Disability Insurance. Given the modest extent to which benefits replace lost earnings and the limited sources of other income upon which they can depend, people who receive Disability Insurance are rarely able to maintain the same standard of living they had before becoming disabled. Disability Insurance provides a floor, however, that moderates the decline in their living standards.

How Much Work Do You Need

Can You Work While Getting Social Security Disability Insurance?

In addition to meeting our definition of disability, you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits.

Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year.

The amount needed for a work credit changes from year to year. In 2022, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,510 in wages or self-employment income. When you’ve earned $6,040 you’ve earned your four credits for the year.

The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when your disability begins. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year your disability begins. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

For more information on whether you qualify, refer to How You Earn Credits.

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