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It’s safe to say that most people never think that they’re going to have to apply for social security disability. However, accidents happen, injuries occur, and plans eventually must change. But, what if you are granted benefits, but want to return to work? What if you try to go back, but find that you still aren’t physically able to work again? Well, the SSA has a program in place to protect your benefits while you attempt to return to work. This is referred to as a “Trial Work Period.” This time is essentially a nine-month period of grace in which any recipient can attempt to reenter the workforce.
It’s important to note that participation in this program is dependent upon a recipient reporting their work activity to the SSA. The program is a real positive for any recipient whose condition has improved enough for them to return to work. With the trial work period, you don’t risk your benefits. In other words, it’s a safe way to return to work. There is some responsibility associated with this program though. In addition to reporting your work activity, you must also report your income and any impairment-related work expenses.
One important aspect of this program that many people don’t realize is that if you return to work, and the nine-month period expires, you may still receive your benefits if you don’t earn more than the Substantial Gainful Activity, or SGA amount. You may recall that to be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). For 2017, the SGA per month of a non-blind person is $1,170. For instance, if you return to work, and stay after the 9-month period, but only make $1000 per month. You may still receive your benefits. Don’t forget though, on average, the SGA changes from year to year. It generally increases, but it’s always important to be aware of how it changes.
What if your conditions improve, you return to work for more than the 9-month period, but then your conditions get worse after a year? Well, that too may not a major issue. For five years after you return to work, if your conditions return or worsen, you may be eligible for “expedited reinstatement” if your benefits were terminated due to your work activity. In other words, your benefits may be reinstated quickly. Think of this as another safety net if you wish to return to the active workforce.
We understand that a lot of people who are granted benefits want to return to work. However, make sure you understand the program and report everything to the SSA properly. If you fail to report proper earnings, or if you don’t enroll in the program, but return to work, you might owe the SSA money. Also, though these programs are intended to benefit you, you must meet all SSA requirements to continue receiving disability benefits or ask for a reinstatement of benefits. These programs do not guarantee protection or reinstatement.
Several of our clients have consulted with us when returning to work, and we are always happy to help. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a client of ours, give us a call today for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form, and we will call at a more convenient time.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law