If you have disability benefits and you wish to return to work, the Social Security program will likely continue to pay you benefits for a period of time while you transition to work.  The rules are different based on whether you are receiving Social Security or SSI. Both programs are discussed below:

Social Security Benefits

If you are receiving Social Security benefits, you are eligible for a trial work period of 9 months.  During this time you will receive your full Social Security benefits regardless of how much you are earning as long as you report your work activity and you continue to have a disability.   A trial work month is a month where you earn at least $810 (after expenses).  The trial work period continues until you have worked 9 months within a 5 year period.  For a period of 3 years after your trial work period is complete, you can still receive benefits in any month that your income is not “substantial”.  Income is considered substantial if it is over $1130 per month.  After your benefits stop because your earnings are substantial, you have 5 years during which you can start benefits immediately if you are once again unable to work due to your disability. You will not have to file a new application.  Even though your benefits may stop, if you are still disabled you could  continue to be entitled to Medicare Part A for almost 8 years (93 months) after the 9 month trial period is complete.  If you have expenses related to your disability, for example, wheelchair payments or counseling, you can deduct these expenses from your income.  Consequently, you may not be considered to have “substantial” income even though your income exceeds the threshold.  If you lose your job during a trial work period, your benefits are not affected. If you lose your job during the 3 year period after the trial work period, you can still obtain benefits if you are still disabled.

SSI Benefits

If you are receiving SSI benefits you can still receive payments if your income is below the SSI threshold. In Maryland, this limit includes the Maryland state supplement.   However if your SSI benefits end, your Medicaid coverage usually will continue if your earnings are less than the state required levels.  It is important to note that any expenses related to your disability are deducted from your actual income when calculating your eligibility. Common expenses are co-payments for medication, counseling services, and transportation expenses.  In addition, SSI does not count the first $85 of your wages towards income. After the initial $85, SSI will deduct $ 0.50 of your benefits for every $1.00 earned until your earnings exceed the benefits. For example, if you earn $1000 in a month, SSI will not count the initial $85. Consequently, your income will be considered $915.  $915 divided by 2 is $457.50.  Therefore, SSI will deduct $457.50 from your SSI benefits.   If your payments are stopped because of your earnings and you are then unable to work due to your disability, you can reinstate your benefits without filling out a new application.

 Regardless of your program it is important to report any changes in your work activity by phone, mail or in person to your local Social Security Office.  Due to the differing rules between programs, we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions about your situation.  We’re here to help.

Tips for Filing Social Security Disability Claims