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What you should know about working while disabled

It's normal to feel relief once you've successfully gotten through the process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits. However, a lot of people end up feeling a little trapped as well.

You may find that your condition improves just enough that you could work a little -- and the desire to be productive is strong. However, the fear of losing the financial security of your Social Security benefits, including health insurance, looms large in your mind. Can you work without losing everything?


Every year, people on disability benefits work and keep their benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers numerous incentives to make it easy for people to work part time, when they are able to do so in spite of their impairment. They also offer incentives for people who want to try to go back to work once their medical condition seems to stabilize.

Social Security recognizes that returning to work after a period of disability is frightening, so here are some of the things they offer those who try:

  • You can earn up to $1180 gross income each month in 2018 without losing your benefits. This is the limit on income before it is considered substantial gainful activity.
  • You are entitled to a trial work period of nine months during which SSA will not consider your disability ended no matter how much you have in earnings.
  • The Ticket to Work, a program offered by the agency, helps disabled individuals start working or return to work with the assistance of government-approved service providers. Considered a long-term plan toward self-sufficiency, participants are exempt from medical reviews while working toward their approved goals.
  • Many people can keep their Medicare benefits for 93 months after they stop receiving monthly disability checks because they've returned to work.
  • If your medical condition deteriorates within five years after you return to work and your disability payments cease, you're eligible for expedited reinstatement of those benefits. You'll receive six months of benefits, plus medical coverage, while your case is reviewed.

Starting your Social Security Disability benefits isn't necessarily a life sentence. If your condition improves to the point that you can work, the agency makes it easy on those willing to try.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Welcome to the Path to Work!," accessed March 09, 2018

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