February 22, 2016

Does Getting A Job Affect Your Social Security Disability Insurance?

By Tai of Allsup

I hear this question quite a bit.

It’s not uncommon for people who have worked in the past to consider going back to work after a disability, especially part-time work to see how they will do.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to former workers who have paid into the federal disability insurance program through their FICA taxes. You could compare this to car insurance premiums—you need it if you’re in a wreck and make a claim.

But it also is possible for your disability to stabilize or improve, meaning eventually you can go back to work. The SSDI program offers important incentives for returning to work—so it’s important to take a closer look.

How would part-time work affect your SSDI payments and eligibility? It depends.

Here are a few key nuggets of information about how work may affect your benefits.

Trial Work Period (TWP)

SSDI beneficiaries are eligible for a nine-month trial work period in which they receive full benefits no matter how much money they make. The months do not have to be consecutive. During your TWP, you can make as much money as you can for each of your trial work months. In 2016, if you make less than $810 per month, those months will not count toward your nine months. The TWP ends when you’ve used your nine months of trial work within a 60-month consecutive period. Following the TWP, you also receive SSDI for three additional “grace period” months.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

SGA is the benchmark the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to determine disability status and continued eligibility for cash benefits. In 2016, SGA increases to $1,130 per month. For those who are blind, the amount is $1,820 per month. SGA only applies after you have completed your nine-month TWP.

Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

When the TWP ends, the next phase is the Extended Period of Eligibility which lasts 36 months. If you are in EPE, and you earn more than SGA level, your cash benefit is suspended. However, if your earnings drop below SGA during EPE, Social Security will re-start SSDI payments with notification. SSDI will continue until you again earn over SGA level.

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE)

Expenses related to your impairments which are necessary in order for you to work (IRWE) can reduce the income that Social Security counts when determining if you are earning over SGA. These expenses must be directly related to your impairment, necessary in order to work, and be expenses you personally pay out of your pocket. The cost of the IRWE expenses is subtracted from your gross earnings after the TWP. If your adjusted gross income then is below SGA, your SSDI payments continue. Examples of IRWEs are medication costs, caring for service animals, special transportation needs, adaptive equipment at work and medical devices.


The SSA also allows you to deduct the value of some types of extra support you receive at your job as a subsidy. For example, if your employer allows you to leave early each day, but still pays you for a full day, you can deduct the value of that additional support from your gross wages (reducing your SGA).

It may sound a little complicated to consider returning to work with SSDI.

Fortunately, there are free resources and assistance available. For more information about returning to work with SSDI, visit AllsupES.com.

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