workingCan I Work and Receive Disability Benefits?

The average disability benefit recipient receives just under $14,000 per year- a difficult amount to live on. Some bills, food and medical expenses may be assisted through government and private programs, but even then there is little or no money left over. Some disability recipients are unable to work for other people due to the sporadic nature of their condition, however they would be perfect candidates for operating their own business enabling them to set their own schedule and routine. Others could work a few hours here and there if given a flexible or lenient schedule.

 Since you are receiving disability benefits it is assumed that you cannot work. Therefore, if you are working, it can jeopardize your benefits if you do not follow the strict procedures the Administration has put in place. If you do not follow the procedures you could see ten or more years in jail and fines in the $250,000 range. The following is simply a review of the guidelines which can (and do) change. Please contact your Social Security disability lawyer and get full legal advice prior to starting any business or beginning to work. You can also contact the Administration’s work hotline at 1-866-YOURTICKET (1-866-968-7842), Monday through Friday between 8 am and 8 pm EST.

The Social Security Administration is not opposed to recipients working. But if you intend to work then you must inform the Administration and you should join the Ticket to Work program. This program allows you to legally work, report your earnings, and still receive benefits for a period of time.

Here is the Ticket to Work program for SSDI in a nutshell. You are allowed to earn more than $770 in a month nine times during a 60 month long “trial” period without affecting your benefits as long as you also continue to have your disabling condition. The tenth time your net income (gross income minus expenses) exceeds $770 you will lose your monthly benefits. However, over the next three years, if your monthly net income falls under $1070 you could receive benefits that month. (These are 2014 numbers and they may change each year. Also, when your benefits were granted, you may have been stipulated a different monthly limit.)

Another caveat is that after your benefits stop you have five years to re-enter the benefits program and once more receive monthly payments if your condition worsens or you find that you can no longer work. Although you will start to receive benefits immediately, the Administration will review your case and disability to determine if your condition still meets the guidelines of the SSDI program.

If you are eligible for Medicare you can continue to receive coverage for at least 93 months after your trial period ends. After 93 months if you are still working you can simply purchase the insurance.

The bottom line is that you should be able to work and earn up to $770 per month (net) without affecting your SSDI benefits as long as the work fits within the confines of your disability and you let the Administration know what you are doing.

SSI recipients are also allowed to work, but there is a formula for payment of benefits and it is a bit more involved in deciding the payment of benefits. On top of that, there are yearly amounts that cannot be exceeded. What is allowed for students is also different. With that said, the basic formula is, take your gross earnings, subtract allowed expenses, then deduct $85. Take the new amount and divide it in half. Now take that amount and subtract if from your monthly benefit amount and you will have the expected amount you would receive from Social Security. To further illustrate, here is the example the SSA provides:

                $1,000 earned in a month from working after expenses have been deducted
                -$85 amount you are allowed to earn without penalty
                $915 amount to be divided by 2.

                $915/2= $475.50.

                In this example, your monthly benefit check would be reduced by $475.50 but you still earned almost $500 more than you would have from SSI alone.

The Administration has put together a pamphlet with details about working while receiving benefits. You can download the pamphlet by clicking HERE. There may be other restrictions not mentioned in the pamphlet, so, once more, we recommend speaking with your attorney before starting a business or beginning to work. To reiterate what was said above, you need to notify the Social Security Administration immediately if you are earning income. Attempting to hide income, not reporting income, or working a job that diminishes the physical deficits you stated you when applying for Social Security disability or SSI could make you guilty of fraud and result in imprisonment and/or a hefty fine.


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About the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers

Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by Benjamin A. Irwin, Esq.

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