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Farrell Disability Law
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Employment and Disability Benefits


Most people associate disability insurance benefits with the complete inability to work due to physical or mental impairments, but many individuals find they have some capacity, or desire, to work. This assumption is supported by the fact that the success or failure of an individual’s disability claim, regardless of whether the benefits are from a private insurance company or the Social Security Administration (SSA), hinges on an assessment of a person’s fitness to perform any type of work. The SSA, in particular, looks at this issue, and decides whether the claimant can return to the previous job full-time, or if another kind of work is a better fit as a result of the limitations imposed by the disabling condition. While it may seem that if someone is able to work to any extent, disability benefits are unavailable, this is not necessarily the case. The SSA does allow those receiving benefits to work, but enforces restrictions that anyone seeking or receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) should be aware of to prevent a loss of benefits.

Employment and Filing a Claim

If someone is working in a reduced capacity due to disability, employment does not automatically preclude him/her from qualifying for SSDI. Eligibility for employed individuals seeking disability centers on how much they earn on a monthly basis. For 2016, if a person earns more than $1,130 on average per month, SSA considers the income substantial, and the disability application is effectively denied upon receipt. However, if an employer is making allowances, or providing special considerations, for a person’s disability, earning more than the monthly limit will not necessarily block a person’s disability claim. Special considerations are concessions an employer allows a disabled employee to take so he/she can continue to work. Examples of special considerations include more frequent breaks, reduced hours and additional time-off. Further, if the value of the work performed is less than the amount paid the disabled employee, the SSA will take the value of the work instead of the actual income to determine if the claimant is under the monthly income ceiling.

Employment While Receiving Benefits

This limitation on gainful employment continues after disability benefits are approved. Thus, a disabled individual could work and receive benefits as long as the income is under the $1,130 cap. In addition, the SSA has a program that assists individuals receiving disability to ascertain if any sort of work is possible by allowing disability recipients to participate in a trial work period. This program permits individuals on SSDI to test their ability to work over a nine-month time period, while still receiving full disability benefits, regardless of how much they make. All that is required is for the disabled individual to submit monthly work reports and continue to suffer from a disability. Any month where a benefit recipient earns more than $810, or works more than 80 hours if self-employed, is considered a trial work month. Disability benefit recipients have a total of 60 months to reach the nine-month trial work maximum. Once that limit is attained, the individual has another 36 months of extended eligibility for benefits for every month he/she earns less than $1,130.

Consult a Disability Insurance Attorney

If you have questions about disability benefits, do not try to wade through the complicated government regulations alone. Work with a disability insurance attorney experienced in negotiating the government process for obtaining disability benefits. Farrell Disability Law, a Florida law firm focusing on disability issues, is available to assist you with obtaining or keeping benefits you need and deserve. Contact the office for a free consultation.


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