Going Back to Work If You Are on Social Security Disability

If you receive social security disability benefits but you want to go back to work, either because your disability has improved or because you believe there is work you can do despite your disability, the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program can help you.

According to the Social Security Administration, the Ticket to Work program is voluntary and can provide free training, job referrals and other services. You can develop a return to work plan with a state vocational rehabilitation agency or an employment network. You can find information on state vocational agencies and employment networks on the Social Security Administration Work Site. While you are participating in the Ticket to Work program and making progress, you will not get another medical review by Social Security.

You may be able to continue to receive social security disability benefits for a time, and Medicare or Medicaid health coverage if you start working. You have a trial work period of at least nine months. According to the Social Security Administration, during this period you continue to receive your full disability benefits regardless of how much you earn, as long as you report your work and continue to have a disabling impairment.

For 2011, a trial work month is any month you earn more than $720, or you are self-employed and have net earnings of over $720 or you work more than 80 hours. Your trial work months do not have to be consecutive. Your trial work period continues until you have worked a total of nine months in a five year period.

After your trial work period, you can continue to receive social security disability benefits for a three year extension period if your earnings are not substantial. In 2011 the Social Security Administration generally defines substantial earnings as more than $1,000 a month or $1,640 if you are blind. If you have additional expenses in order to work, such as special transportation needs, these expenses are deducted from your earnings to determine whether you are still eligible to receive disability benefits.

After your social security disability benefits stop if your earnings are substantial, you have five years to ask Social Security to reinstate your benefits if you find that you are unable to continue working.

If your disability benefits stop because of your earnings, you can continue to have Medicare Part A coverage. This coverage continues for 93 months after your nine month trial work period ends.

If you work while receiving social security disability benefits, you have to report to the Social Security Administration when you start or stop working, when your hours or pay or your duties change, or when you have to pay expenses in order to work. You can find the nearest Social Security office by using the Social Security Office Locator.


Motoko Rich, Disabled, but Looking for Work, The New York Times

The Red Book, Social Security Administration

Social Security Office Locator, Social Security Administration

The Ticket to Work Program And Other Work Incentives, Social Security Administration

The Work Site, Social Security Administration

Working While Disabled – How We Can Help, Social Security Administration

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