The title of this blog post may, at first reading, be confusing to some who have an interest in Social Security disability law. Many people in Pennsylvania incorrectly believe that in order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must be unable to work, period.
However, that is not precisely the case. In order to apply for SSD benefits, you do have to be suffering from a physical or mental condition that is expected to permanently prevent you from working. However, the Social Security Administration recognizes that many people would like the opportunity to return to full employment and self-sufficiency.
If you are receiving SSD benefits and want to try working without risking your disability benefits, the SSA has two options to help you. The first is the “trial work period” rule. You can begin working without losing your benefits or having your disability status reconsidered until you earn $750 per month or more (the 2013 amount) for nine months out of a rolling 60-month period.
The second is a program called “Ticket to Work.” This program is designed to give people with disabilities greater access to rehabilitation and vocational services, and to provide an opportunity to begin working without losing their SSD-provided health insurance. Benefits of the program include:
- Continuation of benefits and no reconsideration of your disability status as long as you are making progress in the program.
- Exclusion of certain income from SSD eligibility limitations if it is being set aside for specific work-related goals. This money could be used, for example, for educational, transportation and training expenses.
- More options for rehabilitation and vocational services geared toward attaining your employment goals.
- Reinstatement of SSD benefits if you have to stop working because of your disability.
If you want to undertake a trial work period or to sign up for the Ticket to Work program, these options are available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and all U.S. territories and can be accessed through local Workforce Development Centers.
Many people can work their way to eventual self-sufficiency, and many people are personally committed to doing so. However, it is important to understand the rules of the Ticket to Work program in order to preserve your rights. You should consult with an attorney or Workforce Development Center advocate before making any decisions.