How important is reporting income for those who currently receive disability benefits?

Reporting income is important to both an SSI claim and a Social Security Disability claim. If you are receiving Social Security benefits, you should report you earnings so that your trial work months and extended period of eligibility months may be established.

Your trial work period is a nine-month period (the months does not have to be consecutive) in a five-year rolling period in which you engage in SGA, or substantial gainful activity.

Note: Substantial gainful activity refers to working and earning a certain minimum amount each month before taxes. To see the current SGA limit.

Social Security does not consider trial work months to be an indication of medical improvement. If, during the tenth month, you are not engaging in SGA, your benefits will continue. However, if you are working then your benefit will be suspended. Either way your extended period of eligibility for disability will begin in the tenth month and will continue for the next thirty-six months.

If you are forced to stop working at anytime during the thirty-six month period due to the conditions that make you disabled you will automatically be reinstated to benefits. If you were terminated due to SGA performance, you will be allowed to file for an expedited reinstatement at any time during the five years following the termination month or when the termination decision was established.

An expedited reinstatement will involve an update of your medical treatment sources, and another disability determination to establish that you are still disabled according to Social Security rules and regulations.

You may receive provisional payments for six months while they (the state agency that handles medical determinations for the social security administration) make a medical decision on your expedited reinstatement.

If you are receiving SSI, you must report all income because it affects your entitlement and your benefit amount.

However, the most important reason for reporting income for either disability program is to avoid being overpaid. If you become overpaid you will be expected to repay the money to the Social Security Administration. If the overpayment can not be waived (forgiven by the Social Security Administration) or you have not made a payment arrangement, your benefit may be stopped.

The Social Security Administration may also keep your income tax return, should you be entitled to receive any return.

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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