Will Working Part-Time Affect My Disability Benefits?

Considering returning to work while receiving disability benefits? You might be wondering if this will jeopardize your financial aid. The answer depends on the type of disability benefits you receive and the extent of your part-time work. This article explores the rules and resources available to help you navigate working part-time while maintaining your disability benefits.

Understanding Social Security Disability Programs

There are two primary Social Security Administration (SSA) programs that offer financial assistance to individuals with disabilities:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This program is based on your work history and past contributions to Social Security. To qualify, you must have a severe disability that prevents you from engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), a term defined by the SSA based on a monthly earnings threshold.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): This need-based program offers financial assistance to individuals with disabilities who have limited income and resources.

The rules for working part-time differ slightly between SSDI and SSI.

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Working Part-Time on SSDI

SSDI offers work incentive programs designed to encourage beneficiaries to test their ability to return to work gradually without immediate loss of benefits. These programs include:

  • Trial Work Period (TWP): This nine-month period (not necessarily consecutive) within a 60-month timeframe allows you to work and earn any amount without affecting your SSDI benefits. It’s a valuable opportunity to assess your ability to work without financial risk.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE): Following the TWP, the EPE provides an additional 36 months where you can receive your SSDI benefits for any month your earnings fall below the SGA limit. This extended period allows for a more gradual transition back to work.

Important to Remember:

  • Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Limit: The SGA limit for 2024 is $1,550 per month ($2,590 if you are blind). Exceeding this limit during a month can jeopardize your benefits.
  • Reporting Requirements: It’s crucial to report all income changes to the SSA promptly, including starting or stopping part-time work.

Working Part-Time on SSI

Will Working Part-Time Affect My Disability Benefits?

While SSI doesn’t have a specific work incentive program like the TWP for SSDI, there are still ways to work part-time and maintain benefits:

  • Income Limits: SSI has income and resource limits for eligibility. Working part-time can affect your benefit amount, but not necessarily eliminate it. The SSA will deduct your work-related expenses from your income when determining your benefit amount.
  • Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS): This program allows you to set aside income and resources for a specific work goal without impacting your SSI eligibility or benefit amount. This can help save on equipment or training needed for your part-time job.
  • Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE): If you’re a student with a disability, the SEIE allows you to earn income from work or student aid without impacting your SSI benefits. This can be a great way to support yourself while pursuing education.

Preserving Your Disability Benefits While Working Part-Time

Here are some key tips to ensure you maintain your disability benefits while working part-time:

  • Report your income accurately to the SSA.
  • Stay below the SGA limit for SSDI.
  • Understand the work incentive programs and how they apply to you.
  • Document your impairment-related work expenses (IRWEs) for potential deductions.
  • Consider consulting a disability lawyer for personalized guidance.
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Finding Support and Resources

The SSA website offers a wealth of information on working with a disability, including details on work incentive programs and benefit eligibility: https://www.ssa.gov/disability

The Ticket to Work program is another valuable resource. This voluntary program connects individuals with disabilities to employment services and support: https://www.ssa.gov/work/

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