Getting Disability and Trying to work

Social Security Disability, SSI and work activity

Work activity is an important aspect of Social Security Disability whether you are trying to be approved for disability or you are already receiving disability benefits.

If you are thinking of filing for disability, you should know that you are not allowed to be working and earning over the SGA limit. This means you must either be unemployed or working but earning under the limit.

If you are earning over the SGA limit, it really does not matter what your disabling impairment is; your disability claim will be denied without ever being sent for a medical determination. In fact, the definition of disability states that you must have a severe disabling condition that has either prevented the performance of SGA-level work activity for twelve months, or is expected to prevent work for twelve months, in order to be approved for disability with Social Security.

What if you are getting disability and try to work

If you are already receiving disability benefits, work will remain an important factor. You are allowed nine trial work months in which you are allowed to earn as much as you wish. As the phrase "trial work months" suggests, these are months during which a person may try working again.

These trial work months do not have to be consecutive; they simply have to add up to a cumulative total of 9 months in which a person can earn over the allowed earnings limit (SGA) and can really earn as much as they wish.

Here's where it gets confusing

However, and this is extremely importance, if you earn over the SGA limit in the 10th month, your disability will be suspended and you will enter into a three year period of eligibility called the EPE (extended period of eligibility).

During the EPE, your disability benefit can be reinstated any month that you are no longer engaging in SGA due to your disability condition.

Once you have used the 36 month EPE period, your disability benefits will be terminated for the first month you earn a gross monthly income that is equal to or more than the SGA limit.

You may still be able to have your disability reinstated if you become unable to perform SGA due to the same disabling condition or conditions that caused you to be approved for disability.

Here's where it gets even more confusing

This reinstatement of disability benefits is called an expedited reinstatement (EXR). You must file the EXR within a five year period beginning with the month your disability benefits were terminated due to work activity.

You will be awarded six months of provisional disability payments while your disability claim is sent for a disability determination. If you are approved, your disability benefits will continue; if not, you can appeal the decision or you can file a new disability claim.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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