Testing your ability to work while receiving Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income is not unlawful, but doing so can affect your benefits in various ways. Social Security benefits are governed by specialized rules that place certain restrictions and limitations on the ability of disability beneficiaries to work. It can be difficult to ascertain how much you are allowed to work and still retain full benefits, so it is important to consult an experienced social security lawyer to gain a full understanding of what you can and cannot do.

Substantial Gainful Activity

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, an individual must first prove that they are not earning substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA is defined as any work activity that results in monthly gross earnings of more than $1,090 for 2015 (or more than $1,820 for those who are statutorily blind). An important distinction is drawn between gross earnings (before taxes) and net earnings (after taxes). For self-employed persons Social Security considers the type of work performed and the amount of time spent each month working in addition to the amounts earned. The amounts indicative of SGA for the new year have increased $20 over the 2014 limits. If you are working and earning more than $1,090 per month, you may not be eligible for Social Security benefits even if you have a disability. If you earn SGA after you are found disabled, and you have completed a Trial Work Period, your disability benefits will likely be terminated.

Trial Work Period

For those who do decide that they want to work while on disability, Social Security regulations allow disability recipients to test their ability to work get back into the workforce for a total of nine months in any 5-year period. The nine-month period does not have to accrue consecutively, but is considered over a 60-month period. During the Trial Work Period, an individual on benefits may work and earn $780 or more per month in gross wages in 2015 without any income restriction and will still receive full benefits. This period was developed in an attempt to push those on disability to get back into the workforce.

Once a disability recipient has worked at least nine months earning more than $780 per month, the disability recipient will enter the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). This extension allows for 36 additional months of benefits so as long as the disability recipient does not exceed the SGA restrictions. The regulations provide that benefits should be terminated once the Trial Work Period is complete and with the first month that a disability recipient earns SGA ($1,090 in a month). Once the 36-month extension comes to a close, your benefits will continue, provided that you are still medically disabled and your income did not exceed the limitations imposed by the SGA regulations. It is also important to keep in mind that Social Security re-evaluates cases every few years. Working in some capacity while receiving disability, even if you have not completed a Trial Work Period or earned SGA, may be a reason that Social Security uses to end your benefits.

If you or a loved one is currently receiving benefits and is considering getting back into the workforce, or if you have questions about social security and disability, we can help! Contact Campbell and Associates today for a free consultation with one of our experienced social security lawyers today.

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