Q: I receive Social Security disability and want to return to work. What will this do to my benefits?
A: For specific information about your own benefits, contact Social Security and speak with a representative.
In general, special rules called work incentives make it possible for people with disabilities receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid.
Remember that Social Security, including disability (SSDI), and SSI are different programs, with different work incentives for returning to work.
Always report a return to work. This is very important. Also report related changes including stopping the work.
For Social Security disability, a main work incentive is the trial work period (TWP).
The trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least 9 months. During a trial work period, you receive full disability benefit regardless of how much you earn as long as your work activity has been reported and you continue to have a disabling impairment. The 9 months does not need to be consecutive and your trial work period will last until you accumulate 9 months within a rolling 60-month period. Certain other rules apply. In 2015, gross monthly earnings of $780 or more will usually count as a month toward the TWP.
After a trail work period is completed, your work activity will be reviewed to see if you earnings are considered substantial gainful activity (SGA) . Exceptions apply but, in general, in 2015 monthly gross earnings of at least $1,090 are considered SGA for a person who is not blind and $1,820 for a person who is blind. Ongoing ability to work at a substantial gainful activity level can result in benefits being stopped.
If this occurs, you have an extended period of disability (EPE).
This means that if your disability benefits stop after successfully completing the trial work period and ongoing work at the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level, your Social Security disability benefits can be automatically reinstated without a new application for any months in which your earnings drop below the SGA level.
This reinstatement period lasts for 36 consecutive months following the end of the trial work period. You must continue to have a disabling medical impairment in addition to having earnings below the SGA level for that month.
Continuation of Medicare.
Of major importance, even if cash benefits end, for most beneficiaries existing Medicare coverage continues through the EPE and beyond.
Most persons with disabilities who work will continue to receive at least 93 consecutive months of Hospital Insurance (Part A); Supplemental Medical Insurance (Part B), if enrolled; and Prescription Drug coverage (Part D), if enrolled, after the 9-month Trial Work Period (TWP).
You do not pay a premium for Part A. Although cash benefits may cease due to work, you have the assurance of continued health insurance. (93 months is 7 years and 9 months.)
This is not a complete list of work incentives for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). There are different work incentives for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). More general information is here.
Again, for details about your own benefits, speak to a Social Security representative.