Returning to work can be a difficult decision. Your physical ability to work is not the only factor. You must also consider how returning to work might affect your Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a number of incentives to encourage people who are receiving disability benefits to work. These include:
Trial work period - A trial work period lets you test your ability to work. You can continue to receive your full Social Security benefits for up to nine months even though you are earning an income. The nine months do not need to be consecutive. If you lose your job during a trial work period, your benefits will continue.
Extended period of eligibility - After your trial work period, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month in which you earn less than the stated maximum. If you lose your job during the extended period, you can call SSA to have your benefits reinstated.
Expedited reinstatement - If you find yourself unable to continue working because of your condition, you can have your benefits immediately reinstated without having to reapply. You can do this at any time up to five years after your benefits were initially discontinued.
Compassionate Allowances - In late 2008, Social Security announced a new nationwide initiative to provide "compassionate allowances" to fast-track applications for people with cancers and rare diseases.
Compassionate allowances will allow Social Security to process disability claims for people with certain conditions in a matter of days rather than months or even years.
For more information and to view a list of the first 50 diseases covered, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
Work expenses related to your disability - Eligible expenses may be subtracted from your earnings when calculating your benefits.
Continuation of Medicare - You must complete a two-year waiting period from the time your disability is determined before you can receive any Medicare benefits. If your Social Security disability benefits stop because of your earnings, but you are still disabled, your free Medicare Part A coverage will continue for at least 93 months after the nine-month trial work period. After that, you can pay a monthly premium to continue Medicare coverage.
Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) - A PASS lets you set aside money to go back to school, get retrained, start your own business, or achieve other goals to reduce your dependency on Supplemental Security Income and become self-supporting.
Learn more about Social Security disability benefits by visiting the SSA Web site at http://www.ssa.gov/disability/.
If you encounter problems accessing benefits or feel you have been treated unfairly, you can find links to legal resources at www.marrow.org/resources.