Usually, there is a lot of confusion with regard to work and Social Security Disability and SSI. Since Social Security Disability and SSI are both total disability programs, many people assume they can do no work if they are collecting benefits, or are considering an application for disability benefits; however that is not true.
If you are filing for Social Security Disability (from this point forward, please remember that we are discussing both SSD and SSI as well, even if we just refer to the one program) or you have Social Security Disability in North Carolina or any other state, you are able to work but your earnings affect your eligibility to receive or continue collecting disability benefits.
If you are filing for Social Security Disability, you will be asked about work that you are currently performing. The SSA–must evaluate whether or not your earnings are above the Social Security monthly earnings limit or SGA (substantial gainful activity).
Basically, the SGA monthly earnings limit is a monetary amount that Social Security considers to be self-supporting, if you are earning over the limit, you are not disabled under the rules of Social Security Disability. Generally, the monthly SGA earnings limit increases each year Social Security gives a cost of living increase.
The SGA amount for the current year, which is a gross earnings amount per month can be be found here: SGA limit. If you are earning over that amount when you file your disability application and you have no special considerations provided by your employer (A special considerations situation is one in which they are paying you the regular pay, but they are accomodating your condition through extra breaks, more absences, or expectation of less productivity) to complete your job, your disability claim will be denied for the performance of SGA.
If your employer states that the special considerations cause your work to be worth fifty percent of a regular employee’s work, Social Security will only count your earnings at fifty percent for the purposes of a SGA determination.
Additionally, Social Security will consider work related expenses as a way of reducing your monthly earnings if those expenses are needed to allow you to work with your disability. These expenses must be paid by you and they must be expenses related to your disability (they cannot be expenses that are not paid by you, or expenses that other employees pay).
If you are already receiving Social Security Disability benefits in North Carolina, you should be careful about any work activity. The SGA monthly earnings amount will affect your continued eligibility to disability benefits. Actually, Social Security wants you to try to work in the hope that you will find work that you are able to perform so you will no longer need disability benefits.
To that end, they allow you to work nine trial work months in which your earnings or work will not counted against your eligibility to disability benefits. The important thing to remember about trial work months is that they do not have to be consecutive and they can occur at any time during a five year period.
If you are working and earning over SGA in the tenth month, your disability benefits will be suspended for any month you earn over the SGA monthly limit. The tenth month also begins a special thirty-six month period in which you are able to reinstate your disability benefits any time you are earning under the SGA monthly amount.
However, if you are working and earning over SGA in the thirty -seventh month your disability benefits will be terminated. Even if your Social Security Disability benefits are terminated because of your work activity, you may be able to restart your benefits through an expedited reinstatement. You must file the expedited reinstatement within five years of the month your Social Security Disability benefits were terminated and you must be unable to work or perform SGA level work because of the same disabling condition or conditions that caused you to be initially approved for disability benefits.
You can work and collect Social Security Disability benefits in North Carolina or any other state. However, you should contact your local Social Security office if you plan to go back to work, or you have gone back to work. Understanding how work activity affects your eligibility to monthly disability benefits could help you avoid overpayments that result from your return to work.