Social Security disability benefits go to those with long-term disabilities or illnesses that last more than a year or are terminal. A recipient must not be able to engage in substantial gainful activity to receive Social Security disability. The threshold for substantial gainful activity is $1,000 a month in 2011. Blind individuals may earn $1,640 a month. Social Security disability has work incentives to allow disabled individuals work opportunities without penalties. You may earn substantial income and continue your Social Security disability benefits for a time under an approved work incentive program.
Trial Work Period
You can attempt to work for a period of nine months over the course of five years. Social Security does not require consecutive months. You must report your work activity and continue to have a disability. A trial work month is one in which you earn $720 or more. If you are self-employed, you may deduct expenses to lower your income. During the trial work period, there is no limit to the monthly amount of your earnings.
After you complete the trial work period, you have 36 months to work and receive disability benefits for any month your work income is not $1,000 or more. You do not have to reapply to receive disability benefits during this period of time. If you make $1,000 or more in any month during your extended eligibility, you do not receive disability benefits for that month. Once benefits cease because of your improved condition or income, you receive notice from Social Security and two more months of benefits.
If you get off Social Security disability and find you cannot work at substantial gainful activity, you have five years to request reinstatement without reapplication. Your benefits will start without the delay and prior to medical examination, since you receive expedited reinstatement.
Extra Work Expenses
If you have extra work expenses because of your disability, Social Security subtracts this expense from your income for the month to calculate your income for continuation of disability benefits. Possible subtractions include specialized work equipment, a wheelchair, transportation costs and even prescription drugs.
Job Loss and Ticket to Work
If you lose your job during the trial work period, it has no effect because your benefits continue. If you lose your job during your extended eligibility, contact Social Security for reinstatement of benefits. If you are still disabled, Social Security reinstates your benefits. Ticket to Work provides assistance and training at no cost for disabled individuals. Ask your Social Security office about this program and opportunities in your area. You may qualify at any time you are receiving disability benefits.
Continuation of Medicare
Free Medicare Part A continues for 93 months for disabled individuals after the nine-month trial work period is over. Social Security must stop benefits because of earnings and your disability must continue for you to take advantage of this medical service.