To qualify for Social Security disability, the disabled individual must suffer from a disability that is so severe it prevents them from working. Some disabled individuals, however, may want to see if they are able to return to work but unsure if they can do so and may wonder if they will lose important disability benefits for trying. Social Security disability (SSD) insurance pays out to disabled individuals the money they paid into the program during their working years.
While Social Security disability helps disabled individuals suffering from a long-term disability, and it can be challenging to qualify, the Social Security Administration also encourages disabled individuals to return to work when possible. Because of that, it provides a Ticket to Work program which allows the disabled individual to determine if they are able to return to work without losing their disability benefits.
The program allows the disabled individual to determine if they are able to return to work for 9 trial work months during a 60-month period. During that trial period, the disabled individual receives their full disability benefit regardless of the amount they earn working. For 2017, any month that the disabled individual earns greater than $840 is considered a trial work month. Once the disabled individual has reached 9 trial work months, the disabled individual can still receive Social Security disability for 36 months but will not receive benefits for any month they earn what is considered substantial which is $1,170 in 2017. Within 5 years, if the disabled individual is unable to work again because of their disability, their disability benefits can resume without them having to re-apply.
When a disabled individual is suffering from a work-related disability or other disability but wishes to determine if they can return to work, the trial work period program allows them to do so without negatively impacting their Social Security disability benefits. Because SSD benefits are important, and oftentimes difficult to obtain, it is helpful for disabled individuals to understand the implications of attempting to return to work and how to protect their eligibility for benefits.
Source: Sonoran News, "Ask Rusty - SSDI and the Ticket to Work Program," Oct. 19, 2017