Navigating the complexities of work and disability benefits can be a challenging task for many individuals. For Iowans who are receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, finding the right balance between work and maintaining their eligibility for benefits is crucial. In this blog article, we, Beecher, Field, Walker, Morris, Hoffman & Johnson, PC, will provide valuable tips to help Iowans effectively manage their work and disability benefits.
Understanding Work Incentives
The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers various work incentives to encourage individuals with disabilities to return to work. These incentives are designed to support individuals during their transition back into the workforce while protecting their essential disability benefits. It is essential to familiarize yourself with these incentives to make informed decisions about your employment.
Trial Work Period (TWP)
The Trial Work Period allows individuals to test their ability to work for a nine-month period without jeopardizing their SSD benefits. During this period, you can earn any amount without losing your benefits, as long as your disabling condition persists. This provision offers a great opportunity to explore your work potential while maintaining financial stability.
Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)
Following the TWP, the Extended Period of Eligibility begins. This 36-month period ensures that you can still receive SSD benefits for any month in which your earnings fall below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level, which is $1,310 per month for non-blind individuals (in 2021). If your earnings exceed the SGA level, you may still receive benefits for any month where your earnings are below the "income cutoff" set by the SSA.
Continuation of Medicare and Medicaid Coverage
During the TWP and EPE, individuals who receive SSD benefits can continue to have Medicare or Medicaid coverage regardless of their earnings. This is especially important for individuals with significant healthcare needs, as it ensures they have access to necessary medical services while transitioning back to work.
Utilizing Work Incentives and Employment Supports
In addition to the work incentives mentioned above, the SSA also provides various employment supports to assist individuals with disabilities in achieving their employment goals. These supports include:
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services: VR agencies offer a range of services, such as job training, counseling, and job placement assistance, to help individuals with disabilities obtain and maintain employment.
Ticket to Work Program: This voluntary program connects individuals receiving SSD benefits with service providers who can offer employment-related services. Participating in this program allows you to explore career opportunities while protecting your benefits.
Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS): PASS enables individuals with disabilities to set aside income and resources for a specific work goal. It helps you save money to pursue education, start a business, or purchase equipment that will aid your employment.
Reporting Changes to the SSA
To maintain your eligibility for SSD benefits, it is crucial to keep the SSA informed about any changes in your employment or income status. Failure to report these changes promptly could result in overpayments or even loss of benefits. Notify the SSA about the following changes:
Employment status: Inform the SSA when you start or stop working, change jobs, or experience any significant changes in your work hours or earnings.
Medical improvements: If there are any improvements in your medical condition that may affect your ability to work, it is important to report them to the SSA.
Personal information: Keep the SSA updated with any changes to your address, phone number, or marital status.
Seek Professional Guidance
Navigating the intricate landscape of work and disability benefits can be overwhelming. To ensure you make the best decisions for your unique situation, consider consulting with an experienced attorney or disability advocate who can provide expert guidance and support. They can help you understand the intricacies of work incentives, navigate the reporting requirements, and ensure that you are maximizing your benefits while pursuing employment.
An attorney or disability advocate can also assist you in determining the potential impact of work on your SSD benefits. They can help you analyze your earnings, assess your eligibility for different work incentives, and provide advice on how to structure your employment to minimize the risk of benefit loss.
Additionally, if you encounter any challenges or disputes with the SSA regarding your work and disability benefits, an attorney or advocate can represent your interests and help you navigate the appeals process if necessary.
Balancing work and disability benefits can be a complex task, but with the right knowledge and support, Iowans on SSD can successfully navigate this challenge. Understanding the available work incentives, utilizing employment supports, and promptly reporting any changes to the SSA are crucial steps in maintaining eligibility for benefits while pursuing employment.
Remember, seeking professional guidance from an attorney or disability advocate can greatly assist you in making informed decisions and ensuring that you are taking full advantage of the work incentives and supports available to you.
At Beecher, Field, Walker, Morris, Hoffman & Johnson, PC, we are dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities navigate the complexities of SSD benefits and employment. If you have any questions or need assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to our experienced team. Together, we can help you achieve a successful balance between work and disability benefits.