By Kellie J. Taylor, Paralegal
Social Security Disability benefits help those who, by illness or injury, are not able to support themselves. Sometimes, those receiving these benefits would like to do part-time or occasional work to supplement their disability payments. Clients will often ask “How much money can I make and still collect my Social Security Disability benefits?” This is not an easy question to answer.
Any work a person does while collecting Social Security Disability benefits necessarily raises issues because it is at odds with the finding of disability. The SSA allows you to earn up to a set amount per month without jeopardizing your benefits. This amount changes yearly; for 2007, the figure was $640 per month. Any earnings above that begin a “trial work period.” The SSA will monitor your earnings for approximately nine months, not necessarily consecutive months, during the trial work period. (If you are self-employed, in addition to monitoring your monthly earnings, you must also monitor the hours you work each month.) Your trial work period is not over until nine months of work at the noted income levels are completed within a period of 60 consecutive months. This work activity can cause the SSA to begin a medical review of your disability to determine if you still qualify for benefits. It can also create a substantial overpayment of benefits to you.
If your benefits are stopped because you have exhausted your trial work period, you can be eligible to have your benefits reinstated if you stop work because of your health within 36 months after the trial work period is terminated, which is referred to as your extended period of eligibility.
Though you can work if you are collecting Social Security Disability benefits, you must keep in mind your benefits are subject to strict guidelines. You must always notify the SSA when you begin a new job so your activity and earnings can be monitored. You should always keep copies of any documents you send to the SSA and record the names of persons with whom you speak.
Getting back to work may be possible. A trial work period affords you the opportunity to find out.