In my last blog entry, I discussed how a claimant's return to work while his or her Social Security Disability application is pending will not necessarily preclude an award of benefits. This may happen when medical improvement occurs, allowing the applicant to successfully re-enter the workplace. What happens if that medical improvement doesn't occur until after the claimant is already receiving Social Security benefits?
As previously noted, an award of Social Security benefits is by no means a declaration of permanency. In fact, the Social Security Administration offers incentives for attempting to return to work without fear of losing your monthly benefits. Any recipient of Social Security benefits will tell you that the monthly benefit amounts, while helpful, do little more than cover basic costs of living expenses.
There can be any number of reasons a disabled individual may want to attempt to work, but often it has a lot to do with finances. However, it is understandable that one may worry about losing the security of a monthly disability benefit by trying to work. Fortunately, the Administration's rules allow for a recipient to engage in a "trial work period" during which he or she may work and receive benefits. Nine trial work months are allocated to those receiving disability benefits, and they may be used consecutively or non-consecutively. While disability beneficiaries are obligated to notify the Social Security Administration of any work activity, it is especially important to do so after nine months, or risk owing the Administration money.
It bears noting that there are circumstances under which one may receive disability benefits without exhausting any trial work months, if earnings are minimal or special accommodations are made related to the work activity. An attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income is always one of the best people to consult if you have questions about work activity while receiving disability benefits.
For more information on returning to work, check out the article by Lew Insler and Gabe Hermann, entitled "7 Things You Need to Know Before You Return to Work."