Can you go back to work while receiving social security disability payments without losing your benefits?

You can – the Social Security Administration (SSA) has several programs and special rules that are designed to help you try and get back to work without losing your benefits. Below, we will discuss how going back to work will affect your disability benefits, including the details of:

  • The Ticket to Work Program,
  • The Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program,
  • Social security back to work incentives, and
  • What you need to report to SSA if you go back to work.

Earning While Receiving Social Security Disability

Social security work incentives, the Ticket to Work program, and the Plan to Achieve Self-Support program allow social security disability recipients to go back to work without losing their monthly payments. 

If you find that you can’t continue working because of your medical condition, you can restart your benefits, often without filing a new application. 

How does it work?

Social Security Back to Work Programs

Ticket to Work Program

The Ticket to Work Program can help you to keep your benefits as you try to get back to work, and it allows you to receive:

  • Vocational rehabilitation,
  • Job training,
  • Job referrals, and
  • Employment support.

While you are participating in the Ticket program and making progress, you won’t have any continuing disability reviews and you will not lose your disability benefits.

Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) Program

Whether you are receiving social security disability benefits (SSDI) or supplemental security income (SSI), you can use the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program to help pay for items, skills, or services you need to reach your work goals. 

Once you submit a back-to-work plan in writing and the SSA approves it, money that you spend to achieve your work goals can be deducted from your income for purposes of eligibility for your disability benefits. 

You can use the money for:

  • Transportation to your job,
  • School tuition, books, fees, and supplies,
  • Childcare,
  • Attendant care,
  • Job coaching or resume writing services,
  • Assistive technology when it is used for your job,
  • Business start-up supplies, equipment, or tools, and
  • Uniforms or safety equipment for your job.

How do you write a proposed plan for the PASS program?

  1. Decide what your work goal is – whether it is a job that you want or a business that you want to start on your own,
  2. Make a list of the steps required to get to your work goal and how long each step will take to complete,
  3. Make a list of the items or services you will need to reach your work goal, like job training, a college degree, or equipment to start a business,
  4. Get cost estimates for each item or service that you will need – they will have to be approved by the SSA,
  5. Calculate how much money you will need each month to pay for the items or services you will need to reach your work goal,
  6. Specify how you will keep the funds for your PASS plan separate from your other money (open a separate bank account), and
  7. Fill out the SSA form SSA-545-BK and return it to your local SSA office.

If your back-to-work plan involves starting your own business, you will also need to include a detailed business plan. You can get help writing your business plan from the Small Business Administration (SBA), a vocational counselor, or a professional who helps people start businesses, and you can include the costs for this service in your plan.

What Do You Have to Report if You Go Back to Work?

If you are receiving social security disability benefits, you must notify the SSA immediately if:

  • You go back to work,
  • You stop working,
  • Your job duties, hours, or compensation change, or
  • You have work-related expenses that are necessary because of your disability.

Social Security Back to Work Incentives

The SSA has several back to work incentives that allow you to try to rejoin the workforce without losing your social security disability benefits, including:

Trial Work Period

You can return to work for up to nine months and continue to receive full social security disability benefits – no matter how much you earn at your job if 1) you report to work and 2) you are still disabled. 

The nine months don’t have to be consecutive – any month where you earn more than $940 or work more than 80 hours in a self-employed business will be considered a “trial month,” and you can use up to nine trial months in a 60-month period.

Extended Eligibility Period

After you have used nine trial months, you can continue to work and receive benefits for up to 36 months for any month when you do not have “substantial” earnings. What SSA considers substantial changes from year to year, but in 2021 it was earnings over $1,310 in a month or $2,190 in a month if you are blind.

Expedited Reinstatement

If you do lose your benefits due to “substantial” earnings, but, within five years, your condition worsens and you can no longer continue to work, the SSA will restart your benefits without requiring you to file a new application and you will not have to wait for a disability review.

Medicare Continuation

If your benefits stop due to “substantial” earnings, but you are still disabled, your Medicare Part A coverage will continue for at least 93 months, after which you can keep your Medicare Part A coverage by paying a premium.

Deductions for Work Expenses

You can deduct certain expenses from your monthly earnings if they are related to your disability – for example, transportation or counseling services that allow you to continue to work despite your disability.

Questions About Getting Back to Work While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits?

The SSA has programs and back-to-work incentives to help you try and get back to work without risking the loss of your benefits. 

If you need help applying for social security disability benefits or appealing an unfavorable decision, call the Law Office of Nicholas G. Callas, P.A. at 803-369-3968 or contact us through our website for a free consultation.

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