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What Are the Social Security Disability Employment Rules

by Mark Sander5 min read
Social security disability employment rules

It is important to keep in mind that the Social Security Disability employment rules are different for people receiving SSDI and SSI. For starters, recipients of SSDI cannot begin performing “substantial gainful activity or SGA” while receiving continues disability benefits. Doing SGA simply means that you are working and accumulating earnings of more than $1,180 per month in 2018 or, if you are blind, it will be $1,970. Apparently, though, there are exceptions to this rule. For the said recipients, there is the so-called trial work period where they need to make more than the SGA amount but in a way that they do not lose their benefits.


What's the set of Social Security Disability employment rules
The SSA has a set of Social Security Disability employment rules that determine a claimant’s ability to do work while receiving continuous benefits.


Understanding Social Security Disability Employment Rules

SSDI recipients are given the chance to test their working ability while receiving continuous full benefits. And mind you, this is regardless of whether you make more than your SGA amount. The trial period, in particular, is set for nine months. For 2018, the Social Security Administration deems any month where an individual has gained a monthly income of more than $850 per trial work month. As for those who consider themselves self-employed, their trial work month is basically any month where they work for more than 80 hours or earn over $850.


Upon completion of the trial work period (within the 36-month period), you are still entitled to receive SSDI benefits for any month where your earnings are considered below the official SGA level. This is simply called the Extended Period of Eligibility. To put it simply, earning less $1,180 per month will allow you to earn benefits. However, if your earnings are more than $1,180 per month, the SSA will not allow you to acquire disability benefits for that particular month.


If your SSDI payments have stopped following your trial work period, the SSA will provide you at least five years for your benefits to be reinstated. This is allowable if and only if you again stop working due to your disability. Now, during the five-year period, the Expedited Reinstatement will follow. This is where the SSA will not force you to process a new disability application just to get benefits. Below is a more detailed explanation of the difference between Extended Period of Eligibility and Expedited Reinstatement.



Extended Period of Eligibility

As mentioned, your trial work period is completed once you have used up all nine months within. This is where the Extended Period of Eligibility begins. The moment Social Security decides that you have had a pattern of countable earnings over “substantial gainful activity (SGA),” you automatically receive a 3-month Grace Period. And during this period, you will continue receiving SSDI cash benefits without considering your wages. Once your Grade Period ends, your SSDI benefits will be back to zero in any month that your countable earnings are beyond SGA. If you are not able to earn beyond the SGA level in the 36th month, you will still continue getting SSDI cash benefits until you manage to earn above the said level or if the SSA deems you medically improved.


About Social Security Disability employment rules
Take the time to learn about Social Security Disability employment rules


Expedited Reinstatement

Another part of the Social Security Disability employment rules is the Expedited Reinstatement. This is primarily a work incentive that the SSA has created to encourage individuals to return to their respective work (or, at least, find a new place to work). It is specifically designed to help those who used to acquire SSDI and have gone back to work while losing their benefits after using all their trial work period and Extended Period of Eligibility. All in all, this one here allows you to accumulate a maximum of six months of temporary SSDI cash benefits, but only if your income drops below the SGA level.


During those six months, the Social Security Administration will perform a medical review in order to determine if whether or not you still meet the requirements stated in the Social Security Disability employment rules. If the SSA confirms that you are still disabled, you will be put back on benefits, and this is done without the need for SSDI reapplication. If it is the other way around, your SSDI benefit will immediately stop. For you to be eligible for the Expedited Reinstatement, you have to request first for your benefits to be restarted within 5 years of when your benefits have ended.



Impairment Related Work Expenses and Wage Subsidies

The SSA knows that it is possible for you to have additional disability-related expenses, especially when returning to work. If you happen to have any Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs), you must talk with your SSA representative right away, so you can determine if these expenses can be directly deducted from the overall gross earnings. Even more so, talking to the said representative will help you determine the need for a job coach or other special assistance, which are meant to help you do your job accordingly. This is where the SSA will consider it a wage subsidy, allowing you to deduct the latter from earnings. You are allowed to deduct the value of IRWEs and wage subsidies upon completion of the trial work period.