Can I return to Work or go to School while on Disability?
The Social Security Administration helps the disabled return to work.
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
The Social Security Administration offers programs and incentives to help those who are disabled get back to work.
Most people would rather work than collect disability. Beyond a paycheck, working provides structure and social support. The Ticket to Work program is available for those between the ages of 18 and 64 who collect disability benefits. This program helps beneficiaries keep their Medicaid or Medicare benefits and makes it easy for those who find they can’t work to return to collecting benefits. The Ticket to Work program is entirely voluntary and beneficiaries who do not want to attempt to work are not required to participate.
The Ticket to Work program is designed to offer those with disabilities assistance and support with employment.
Anyone between the ages of 18 and 64 who is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income because of their disability is eligible to participate. Participants used to receive literal paper tickets, but now you can enroll by calling the Ticket to Work Help Line (1-866-968-7842). The help line connects eligible beneficiaries to either an Employment Network (EN) or Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency. An Employment Network focuses on job placement and will offer career counseling. Vocational Rehabilitation focuses on educational and rehabilitative services and may offer job placement or may refer clients to an Employment Network.
There are three major benefits to participating in the Ticket to Work program, Trial Work Period, Expedited Reinstatement, and Protection from Medical Continuing Disability Reviews.
- Trial Work Period
- Expedited Reinstatement
- Protection from review
This allows you to continue to receive your full, normal amount of disability benefits for the first nine months of working regardless of how much you earn.
Can I Still Receive My Benefits?
Under certain circumstances, the Social Security Administration (the government agency that handles your disability benefits payments) will allow you to go to work and still receive payments. Every person receiving benefits can take a Trial Work Period (TWP) to test their work abilities (if they want to). Your TWP is considered to begin if you are making over a certain amount, or, if you are self-employed and working more than 80 hours per month.
This TWP can last nine months (consecutive or not) over the course of 60 months.
During the TWP, you can earn an unlimited amount while still receiving your normal SSD payments.
After you have used your TWP, you then enter a 36-month extended period of eligibility. This period allows you to keep working and receiving benefits so long as you are still disabled and do not earn over a certain threshold amount. After this extended period, if you earn more than the allowed threshold amount, you will lose your benefits. If your benefits are terminated because you are earning too much, you can reinstate your benefits within five years if you lower your income or become unable to work again. This system can be helpful for those who do not have a permanent disability or want to experiment with returning back to work.
This ensures that should your benefits end because your earnings are too high, you can receive provisional benefits for six months while waiting on the re-application process.
This means that as long you continue to make “timely progress” towards becoming financially independent, you will be exempted from Continuing Disability Review on the basis of medical conditions. “Timely progress” is reviewed annually and defined by meeting educational and vocational milestones such as getting and holding a job or completing training or degree programs. In general, the SSA will perform a Continuing Disability Review every three years where they evaluate changes in medical or financial conditions to re-determine your eligibility for benefits. Those successfully progressing in the Ticket to Work program do not have to participate in this review.
The goal of the Ticket to Work program is to help beneficiaries become financially independent.
There are, however, a few problems with the program. Many beneficiaries ignore the program altogether because it adds unnecessary complications to their already complicated lives. Much of the disability review process revolves around proving you are unable to work. It is difficult to prove you are unable to work if you are attempting to work in some capacity. Many people try to use the program and end up with an Employment Network that doesn’t help them. A report from an independent agency, as well as the SSA’s own records, reveal that participation rates in the program are extremely low and very few beneficiaries actually are able to re-join the workforce.
What if you want to go back to school?
Generally, you can attend college or university and still receive your disability benefits.
However, it is important to keep in mind that everyone who receives disability benefits is reviewed every few years to ensure their condition is still severely disabling. If you decide to attend school while receiving benefits, it may appear as though you are no longer disabled when your case is reviewed. Of course, you can still attend school and receive your payments, but it is important to provide your SSD caseworker and your school with certain information proving that you are still disabled.
If you have been denied benefits because you have tried to return to work, the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed may be able to help.
Contact us today for a free consultation.
Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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