Returning to Work After Being on Social Security Disability

Disability Claim Form – UNUSED(1)

Though many recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits will continue to get payments for the rest of their lives, there are others who see the arrangement as temporary. Some will experience improvement in their medical condition, so they want to see whether they’re capable of returning to the workforce. Many may simply want to enjoy the satisfaction and personal fulfillment that comes with working.

If this describes your circumstances, you’ll probably have numerous questions about how the move will affect your SSDI benefits. After going through the process once, you already know the considerable challenges in getting approval. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages disability recipients to go back to work, so your benefits won’t immediately terminate the day you start your job. However, there are strict rules that apply and serious consequences for non-compliance. It’s wise to work with a Georgia Social Security Disability lawyer if you’re considering going back to work, but there are a few points you should know about the process.

Your Trial Work Period (TWP): For nine months after you become employed, you’re under a trial status for purposes of SSDI. You can work at any level and earn any amount, and you will still receive your benefits – even when your income exceeds what SSA terms “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). You only accrue a month toward your TWP when you make above a minimum level of earnings, which is $910 in 2020. There are additional points to note with respect to this status:

  • Your TWP doesn’t have to be nine consecutive months of working.
  • The only months that count are those you accrue within 60 months after going back to work;
  • If you don’t work for nine months total within that five-year period, you could get another TWP – during which you’ll still retain SSDI benefits.

The Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE): When you do accumulate nine total months of earnings at $910 or above in years beyond 2020, your TWP terminates. You don’t necessarily lose your SSDI disability benefits, but you’ll enter the 36-month EPE. For any month that your income falls below SGA, which is $1,260 in 2020, you retain SSDI benefits as long as you still have a disabling medical condition.

When you work above SGA during the three-year EPE, SSA will issue a finding that your disabling has ceased – but you’ll still receive benefits for that month and the following two months. You get a type of grace period during this time, during which your benefits are reinstated if you fall below SGA and are still within EPE.

Expedited Reinstatement: Once you’re past the EPE and your benefits terminate because you’re hitting the SGA level for that year, your file remains open with SSA for another five years. Though you won’t be receiving payments, you can apply for expedited reinstatement. There are two key benefits for doing so:

  1. You won’t have to file a new application for SSDI benefits. When you recall what you went through to get approval the first time around, you know that this is a key advantage.
  2. When you do apply for expedited reinstatement, you can start receiving benefits right away and for up to six months while the SSA processes your application.

Avoiding Social Security Fraud: From these descriptions of various periods when you go back to work, you can guess that there are ways to “fudge” your status. You might be tempted to avoid notifying SSA that you returned to a job or not report your earnings. The issue is that you’re under a legal obligation to keep SSA apprised of all changes in your situation, even when they could result in termination of your benefits. Dishonesty and the failure to make updates can amount to Social Security fraud, which carries very serious penalties. Not only will you be forced to reimburse the funds you received, but you could face considerable fines and even jail time.

Talk to a Knowledgeable Georgia SSDI Lawyer Before Returning to Work
This summary may be helpful in describing the stages you’ll go through when you decide to reenter the workforce, but the relevant regulations are much more complicated in a real-life situation. Before you make any decisions or take action that puts your disability benefits at risk, discuss your circumstances with one of our skilled SSDI attorneys at the Vaughn Law Firm. You can reach our Decatur, GA to schedule a free consultation by calling 877.615.9495 or visiting us online. We serve clients throughout DeKalb County, Fulton County, and Cobb County in a wide range of employment matters, including SSDI and disability claims.