Work and Social Security Disability Benefits
A person’s identity is frequently tied to the work he/she does, and in America, a person’s worth is particularly associated with one’s job. For those suffering from a disability, the loss of this touchstone is very difficult, both emotionally and financially. While Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cannot fix the psychological impact of a disabling condition, it can at least provide financial stability, which allows an individual to focus on managing the impairment, rather than how to pay the bills. Past, present and future employment play a big part in the SSDI system, and understanding how a person’s employment record affects the award and retention of benefits is essential information all applicants should have. To that end, a discussion of how work credits factor into the decision to award SSDI benefits, and the ability of an SSDI benefits recipient to work and still remain eligible for the SSDI program, will follow below.
Qualifying for SSDI benefits obviously requires the presence of a disability that hinders a person’s capacity to work, but another necessary component to eligibility for SSDI benefits is having an adequate work history. Basically, each person must contribute enough to the Social Security system during his/her working life to be eligible to receive benefits. How much one pays into the Social Security system is based upon his/her earnings, and the SSA converts this number into work credits. Recipients of federal SSA benefits – which includes SSDI – must accumulate a certain number of work credits to qualify for coverage. A person can earn up to four credits per year, and the dollar amount needed to earn one credit is computed annually. In 2016, that number was $1,300. Unlike retirement benefits, how many work credits a person needs to qualify for SSDI benefits depends upon the age when the disability began. For example, before the age of 24, an individual needs to earn six credits within the three years immediately preceding the disability, and for those 31 or older, which encompasses most of the individuals seeking benefits, the number of work credits needed ranges from 20 to 40. Note that for those 31 and older, 20 credits must be earned in the 10 years directly preceding the onset of the disability, but any additional credits needed to qualify can be earned from employment more than 10 years in the past.
Working and Keeping Benefits
Despite the unfortunate assumption that people on disability are avoiding work, the vast majority would rather be working, and many, in fact, try to return to work to the extent possible. The SSA wants to encourage recipients of disability benefits to work, while still allowing them to keep their SSDI benefits. As a result, the SSA offers work incentives to SSDI benefit recipients that permit them to receive full benefits and still work for a limited time, as well as retraining and rehabilitation for new lines of employment. The trial work period program lets SSDI benefit recipients attempt to work, without a limit on earnings, while retaining full disability benefits. To qualify, all work must be reported and the disability must be present. Any month a person earns more than $840 is considered part of the trial work period, which continues until a person earns more than $840 during any nine months over a 60-month time span. Further, an individual can continue to receive benefits after the trial work period is over for another 36 months, assuming monthly earnings do not exceed $1,170. Importantly, if benefits stop because a person sustains monthly earnings above the $1,170 threshold, but is later forced to stop working again due to a disability, this person can request a reinstatement of benefits without filing a new application. Note that this reinstatement grace period lasts for five years, after which a new SSDI application would need to be filed if a disability returns.
Consult a Disability Insurance Attorney
Few issues can so radically alter a person’s life like the onset of a disability, and if you are in this situation, talk to a disability insurance attorney about your options. SSDI benefits are open to the vast majority of Americans, but qualifying is often tricky and time-consuming. Farrell Disability Law understands how stressful these circumstances are, and will fight to get you the benefits you need. If you live in Florida or South Georgia, contact the office today for a free consultation.