Trying to work while getting disability has risks

Here's a situation that was recently brought up:

"Well, now the good folks at Social Security are again breathing down my neck. Not that I didn't know this wouldn't happen some day. They always like to wait until one has acrued a huge debt while working or something, then say you owe them a big chunk of change! Now, I have been trying to rectify this situation for almost two years, and they repeatedly told me that everything was fine. I've been told that this happens to many people with disabilities, they want us to get jobs, but then when we do we pretty much have our legs cut out from under us."

Now, in all honesty, there are occasions in which individuals receiving Social Security Disability or receiving SSI disability benefits wind up in situations that are their own fault. But this poster has a very valid point: the social security administration pushes the concept of disability benefit recipients returning to work. But the agency, IMO, does not do an adequate job of explaining how earned income may affect one's benefits, which can lead to any one of a number of nightmare scenarios that may involve:

1. an assessed overpayment and/or

2. a cessation of benefits.

Of course, overpayments can run into the thousands and can follow you up to and beyond retirement age (meaning, SSA can potentially recoup it all no matter how much it means that they have reduce your monthly benefit check). And a cessation of benefits can mean having to start ALL OVER again in the disability evaluation process, which these days can mean, start to finish, 3 years (meaning three years with ZERO income).

There are many individuals, including those who represent disability claims, who believe that it simply isn't worth it to try to work while you are receiving Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, simply because the risks are too great, particularly if you receive SSI and your ability to obtain needed prescription medication is based solely on the medicaid coverage that comes packaged with SSI benefits.

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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