Career Connection: Can You Still Receive Social Security Disability Benefits if you are Working from Home?
Career Connection: Can You Still Receive Social Security Disability Benefits if you are Working from Home?

Categories: Benefits & Assistance Programs, Employment

Photograph of Shelly Goldman

By Guest Blogger Shelly Goldman, Career Coach, Executive Recruiter and President of Goldman Group Advantage

Most people might be surprised to know that special rules make it possible for people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments. While it might sound questionable, it actually makes perfect sense. Why punish someone who is interested in trying to go back to work? If they did, no one would ever be encouraged to try!

To assist people with disabilities in returning to the workforce, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has developed a number of work incentives planning and assistance programs designed to provide people with the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. An important element in exploring your ability to work and earn an income is what we will discuss in this article, the trial work period.

Trial Work Period:

A trial work period is a period in which a person receiving Social Security disability benefits may test his or her ability to work and still be considered disabled. During the trial work period, you can receive your full Social Security benefits regardless of where you work or how much you earn, as long as you report your work activity to SSA and continue to have a disabling impairment.

SSA does not consider services performed during the trial work period as showing that your disability has ended until services have been performed in at least nine months (not necessarily consecutive) in a rolling 60-month period.

What triggers the trial work period? Your earnings. For every month that you earn more than the predetermined amount, you are considered to be in the trial work period. For 2012, a trial work month is any month in which your total earnings are more than $720. If you are self-employed, a trial work period is any month you earn more than $720 (after expenses) or work more than 80 hours in your own business.

Keep in mind that this dollar amount can change year-to-year. The amount you are allowed to earn per month during your trial period is annually assessed and determined, based on the SSA’s cost-of-living adjustments.

Extended Period of Eligibility:

Once your employment exceeds the 60-month period, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month your earnings are not considered to be “substantial.” In 2012, the SSA generally considers earnings over $1,010 ($1,690 if you are blind) to be substantial. No new application or disability decision is needed for you to receive a Social Security disability benefit during this period. If your earnings exceed the determined dollar amount, you may be considered capable of performing substantial gainful activity, which will affect your benefits.

Some Advice:

The rules and regulations of SSID and SSI can certainly be confusing! As there are always exceptions and new updates and changes to consider, we recommend you always confirm any information you receive from other sources with SSA.

You’ll also want to keep them informed of any changes to your work situation and/or employment. If you receive Social Security due to a disability, they will want to know promptly:

  • When you start or stop work.
  • Changes in your duties, hours or pay.
  • If you start paying expenses for work due to your disability.

You can report changes in your work activity by phone, mail or in person at your local Social Security office.

You’ll need to be able to provide evidence that you reported your earnings. It’s advisable to fax or mail a copy of your paycheck stub to your local SSA office. If you mail your information, sending your paycheck stub by certified mail or return receipt requested is a good idea, as it provides evidence that you mailed the information and it was received. For more information, visit www.ssa.gov or call SSA’s toll free help line at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday – Friday from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Community Resources:

Want more assistance? There are also a number of community-based organizations who specialize in providing information and work incentives planning and assistance to people who are receiving Social Security or SSI disability benefits and are working or considering work. Take advantage of these valuable resources! Work incentive coordinators can help you understand how work affects your benefits and explain what other federal, state and local supports there are for people with disabilities who want to work.

To locate the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) project nearest you, call 1-866-968-7842 (TTY 1-866-833-2967). You also can find a list of Service Providers on the SSA website at https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/oesp/providers.nsf/bystate.  

Shelly Goldman has more than 20 years of successful, diverse experience as a career coach, career management agent and executive search consultant offering guidance and support services customized to each client. She is a Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP), Credentialed Career Master (CCM) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC). Prior to founding The Goldman Group, Shelly served as a Vice President of Training and Recruiting for a national food service organization.

38 Responses to Career Connection: Can You Still Receive Social Security Disability Benefits if you are Working from Home?

  1. Klamm S. says:

    I am so happy I discovered just what I was looking for! You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you, man. Have a nice day. Bye.

  2. Annie says:

    I am working with an organization that advocates for people with disabilities re-entering the workforce. They are helping me to find and secure the best job for me, and get acclimated to it. However, there is a conflict that I am struggling with:

    My job coaches strongly insist that should not tell my potential employers that I am collecting SSDI because it’s “none of their business.” I understand and appreciate that, but I still want to be up-front about my SSDI in an interview. If an employer asks me what my past achievements are, I would like to consider winning my SSDI case as an achievement. I would also like to make sure that I am not over scheduled, and be able to decline extra hours because of this legal reason.

    I haven’t seen any online discussion about telling our employers about our disability status. I think it would be so much easier if we could be open about it. Is this really such a bad idea?

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi Annie,

      You may want to check out the publication, “The 411 on Disability Disclosure” (http://www.ncwd-youth.info/411-on-disability-disclosure). It’s geared toward youth with disabilities just entering the workforce, but there is some good information about the pros and cons of disclosing your disability status to employers and others.

      Best,

      The Disability.Blog Team

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  4. Body-BedBound-But-Brain-Still-Works...Sometimes says:

    Questions:

    1. Is buying/selling stuff online considered “work” in the eyes of SSD? (No “set hours,” no “set pay,” no “employer,” etc., just a “hit or miss” kind of thing).

    2. Specifically, is buying domain names cheap (w/coupon codes) & then reselling (or auctioning) them for a few bucks profit considered “work” in the eyes of SSD?

    (You used the phrase “performing a service” to describe “work,” & buying/selling for one’s own self does not seem to equate to “performing a service,” per se, like it would if you were “performing a service” to an employer(?)

    3. However, if the answer to #1-2 above is Yes, & per your article, if a person on SSD never made $720 in any given month of 2012, they would not have to report it to SSD anyway, right?

    Thank you for any clarification.

    And P.S. to Big Brother: I haven’t made 1 red cent yet, but was thinking of trying my hand at “domaining.”

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hello,

      The best way to have your question answered is to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 1-800-772-1213 between 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM Monday through Friday. For information on the limit a person receiving Social Security disability benefits can earn per month without his/her benefits being affected, visit http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/sga.html.

      Best,

      The Disability.Blog Team

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  7. Delores G. says:

    I was turned down by a disability law judge. I filed an appeal with the Appeals Council. Even though according to my doctor and the advocate at my hearing, I am unable to work, the judge stated in his denial that according to SSA doctors, I am able to work. I was never examined by SSA doctors. My question is since SSA doctors say I am able, can I demand a physical examination by them?

  8. Janet V. says:

    WHERE WOULD I LOOK FOR LEGITIMATE WORK AT HOME JOBS? I WORKED IN ACCOUNTING AT TRENTON TIMES NEWSPAPER AND BEFORE THAT MAGRAW-HILL. I CAN’T LEAVE THE HOUSE, BUT I NEED EXTRA MONEY. SSD JUST ABOUT MAKES IT WITHOUT A PENNY TO SPARE. I THANK YOU AND HOPE YOU CAN TELL ME WHERE TO LOOK FOR WORK AT HOME.

  9. Vera L. O. says:

    I’m 60 years old and looking for a job. I’m disabled. I have a lot of excellent job skills, from Building Maintenance, Janitorial, Power Machine operator, Food Service Worker, Arts and Crafts, Painting, a very good cleaner. I have a good personality. I work well with others. I’m never late or absent without a good reason. I learn new trades. I’m learning how to use the computer well. I like tutoring English and Math. Thank you, Vera

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  11. David S. says:

    I don’t know where to turn. My fiance Deborah is 41. Last year she was accused of a crime she didn’t commit. Two Daytona Beach detectives showed up on March 15th (the incident happened Feb 15th), and read me my rights. I told them to stop, and they sent me inside. I heard them telling Deborah she was going to jail she was a thief and on drugs. Deborah is bipolar and hears babies crying, crickets, etc. and also has adhd with augoraphopia. Shes also had 4 ear surgeries and is still being treated due to the fact she was sentenced to 180 days in jail, on a VOP, on a crime she never committed. She tried to tell the detectives that’s the wrong tag. We had an Orlando magic tag, then she told them “I DON’T STEAL.” One week later, she was arrested. Her mother works at Target. We stopped in to tell her mother what the EAR SPECIALISTS PLANS WERE to treat Deborah. The next day, tags were found in a back bathroom. Deborah never went into any restroom. A loss pervention asssociate sent Deborah’s picture to every probation and parole in the state. Deborah was charged with possession of her own pills!! The public defender told Deborah plea out, you won’t go to jail. The judge wasn’t even sure Deborah knew what her charges were, she should have never been on probation! Then they sentenced her to 180 days in jail. Deborah still doesn’t get why she’s in jail. They had to drop the retail theft. Deborah never stole a thing, the video proved that. I lost my job due to the state investigator haressing me at my job. The year and make of the car were wrong, and the owner we were buying it from works and did then on the same parking lot as Target. Deborah is naive, she even turned herself in, because she didn’t do anything wrong! Deborah is having her 5th ear surgery on Friday, lost most all of her hearing due to the fact she didn’t have the ability in jail to be treated. We lost our home due to no income. Deborah panics if she has to go to the store. SHE BELIEVES the police are going to arrest her. Her mother was threatened with her job if she contacted the home office. I KNOW DEBORAH HAD HER CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATED! NO ONE SEEMS TO WANT TO HELP! SHE’S CRAZY! THAT’S SAD WHEN A MENTALLY ILL WOMEN HAS TO SIT IN JAIL BECAUSE OF LACK OF MONEY! NO ATTORNEY WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT IT, AND SHE LOSES EVERYTHING! AND GETS A FELONY CONVICTION! BECAUSE AT TARGET IN DAYTONA BEACH FLORIDA NEEDED AN ARREST! TO SAVE HIS JOB> HER OWN MOTHER SAID THAT’S NOT TARGET POLICY. HE LOOKED ME IN THE EYES AND LIED! AND THE DAYTONA DETECTIVE SAW A WOMEN NOT ALL TOGETHER THERE! WE HAVE AN ARREST! I heard how they talked to her, and called her a drug addict! WRONG! DEBORAH IS MENTALLY ILL! I NEED HELP!

    ALSO I WANT IT NOTED THEY SAID IF I TOLD DEBORAH ANYTHING OTHER THAN “COME OUT HERE,” I WAS GETTING ARRESTED FOR obstructing justice! AND BILLY SAID WE NEVER BOUGHT ANYTHING. I HAVE A CREDIT CARD RECEIPT PROVING WE BOUGHT DOG BONES, 2 CAFE MOCHAS AT STARBUCKS, DEODORANT and toothpaste!

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  16. Stuart M. says:

    How is it that a girl I know that works about 60 hrs per wk under the table can still get a disabilty hearing and was told it looked great for her to get it? I know her boyfriend’s mom owns the places where she works and does pay her under the table. Doesn’t disability look into her lifestyle or check out leads about stuff like this? I’m disabled and had to go homeless before I got mine, then I see people like this living high on the hog, running scams, it really burns my butt. The state of Missouri needs to check out reports on the people who apply, not just take them and 6 mo.s later let people get disability. This is a sad, unjust thing for us who can’t work and really need it.

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi Stuart,

      To report suspected cases of fraud, waste or abuse of Social Security Administration (SSA) programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), visit SSA’s Fraud Reporting page at http://oig.ssa.gov/report-fraud-waste-or-abuse. Also please be aware that having a disability hearing does not necessarily mean SSA will determine that individual is eligible to receive disability benefits.

  17. Gail says:

    That’s great. But these rules are confusing, and the WIPA program will be eliminated by Congressional lack of action in June 2012. I know — I am one of those Community Work Incentive Coordinators who has done this job for years and now face losing my job. If you want these services to continue, contact your Representatives and Senators and tell them to reauthorize the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program.

  18. John Anthony C. says:

    I have intellectual disabilities and broke my back 3 times.

    • Cristian says:

      I am in the Ticket to Work Program presently. My case magnaer at Voc Rehab did tell me there was a way you can apply to keep your Medicaid benefits if you prove you financially need the benefits. Living with a Disability can be very challenging when considering financial costs. You can look up financially needed Medicaid, which is a program you can apply for if you have a job and your medical expenses exceed a certain portion of your income. Kassie L.

  19. Dee says:

    I have been offered a position at a Dept. Store. The position is on the makeup counter. I have a hard time standing in one area for longer than 15 minutes. Should I bring this up to my employer? I am afraid that if I do they will not keep me. I really need to work to pay my bills.

  20. Richard B. says:

    Some of what you wrote is true — the SSA regulations concerning Title 2 and Title 16 disability (SSDI and SSI to you) are confusing and it is all too easy even for Technical Experts at SSA to get them mixed up – oh, I forgot to mention that I used to work for SSA.

    A couple of items to note: The TWP (Trial Work Period) is a creature of the Title 2 disability program and had nothing to do with Title 16. Once a SSDI recipient has completed the TWP (and the SDA “grace period” months), then the recipient will no longer get the SSDI payment as long as they are working over SGA. But there are several hitches to this — the “grace period” may be three months or only one — that’s at the discretion of the local office, the Claims Rep, etc. Indeed, even though it is so stated in the 2012 Red Book that a beneficiary can get a BPQY (Benefits Planning Query) by calling the 1-800 number or going to a local SSA office, it ain’t necessarily so — each office and area and district and region have a certain autonomy in regard to the way they administer the regs. The BPQY — this is a useful piece of info. as it tells the beneficiary of either program their status regarding payments, overpayments, and certain medical info.

    I now work with the Ticket to Work program at a non-profit — and in my time at SSA as well, have seen the wrangling over the programs — it is not only confusing, but comes from that all American confusion known as the compromise — the law written to appeal to many factions (interest groups/stakeholders) regarding SSA policies.

  21. Teresa T. says:

    This is really good news. Please continue to publish these types of articles and email me of any updates or new articles. Thanks.

  22. PN says:

    Woah, this blog is fantastic. I love reading your posts. Keep up the good postings! You understand, a lot of people are hunting round for this information, you could help them greatly.

  23. Gregory says:

    Shelly, I’m trying to find another agency other than Vesid/Access VR that provides vocational/employment services in Bronx, NY. Can you suggest one?

  24. Carlos L. says:

    Can someone on SSDI collect SSA retirement at age 62?

    • Richard B. says:

      I would check this out with your local SSA office or the 1-800 number (1-800-772-1213)- – but having a passing familiarity with the SSA rega– I used to work there — I can tell you that you will need to call them or visit them. There are ways to convert from SSDI to regular SSA retirement–but it doesn’t happen automatically at age 62 (it happens at age 65).

      • Disability.Blog Team says:

        Thanks Richard! We contacted our resident SSA guru to see if he had an answer to Carlos’ question, but he’s on vacation at the moment, and the only information we were able to find on ssa.gov was about full retirement at age 65. It is always a good idea to call the 800 number or your local office if you have questions related to SSA disability or retirement payments. They are the experts!

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi Carlos. The Disability.gov team’s Social Security expert says that to his knowledge, there’s no benefit in collecting retirement at age 62 if someone is already getting SSDI because age 62 retirement represents reduced monthly benefits, while the SSDI is the equivalent of age 65 (or 66 and so on) full retirement. This may help answer the question: http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/160/~/effect-of-full-retirement-age-on-disability-benefits. SSDI converts to retirement benefits once a person reaches the full retirement age of 65+, and you can only get one or the other. Hope this is helpful!

  25. Karla P. says:

    Shelly – This is an excellent, well thought out review of how an individual with a disability collecting SSDI/SSI can try work without fear of compromising benefits. As you pointed out, it’s a good idea to engage one of the community based WIPA resources that can help walk through the process and answer questions. ~Karla

  26. Flecia G. says:

    I am sending in an OFCCP form about what has happened to me. I was told to go home because my job restrictions forms that were asked to be completed because of a vindetta that my supervisor had against me and wanted me to do work in a area that would have and did cause me to be put on stronger pain pills. And I will let whomever read what they are doing to me. It happen before at their other facility before they sent me to this current one. I was hired and interviewed for 4 hours, and found out I was permanent 8 hours and here now, found out they tried to work me from 8 am to 6:45 on two shifts. They let another employee read my medical paper work, right in front of me. You would not believe what happens down here, it is illegal and violation of disability rights, and my right to privacy. This surely needed to be investigated and the company penalized for their illegal actions. This folder with all information will be priority mailed Monday and a copy to Raleigh, NC. Now I am getting surprise calls from a particular business that should have been called, and wanting to know if I should find another job, because they know this is a serious case to me. Now the doctor has me on a new pain medication strength so I am weak after taking the people where I can drive afterwards and makes me weak, and I know now they are trying to dismiss me to avoid a lawsuit. They really broke serious laws and disability laws and rights.

    • Caroline says:

      Talk to social security, that would be your best answer, or go to SSA.gov and see if you can find it there. Something helpful, though. I had a friend who suffered a stroke in childhood and was considered disabled for life. She married a friend of mine, and she received the full benefit she had before she got married, but they treat each situation differently under the umbrella of the law. You have to find out what the law is and go from there. Also, on a side note, since you would be able to answer some questions no one else seems to be able to, if you would be interested in answering some questions about living with CP, please email me. My son has CP, and I wonder what it will be like when he’s a little older. I don’t know anyone else in the same situation. Thanks in advance.

  27. Connie says:

    I am on disability and have checked work from home positions. I don’t trust them. Any suggestions as to where to look?

    • David S. says:

      Depending on your disabilitlty, I have to work from home because my fiance is mentally ill, and she goes into crisis when left alone. This stems from her getting drugged out and serving 180 days due to a VOP for false charges. I work for a service that you call and check on newspaper subscriptions. I can be home with her. I’m hoping time will make things better, BUT GOOGLE legitimate work at home, there are some, but be wery of anyone asking you for money, also check with the BBB. It’s not my dream job but it pays well, and I’m working on getting Deborah with her psych Dr. to trust the world again. I love her, Deborah. I never knew they treat people with mental health conditions so bad!

  28. Chandan says:

    Sir, I want a job but I am Indian and I’m poor so please I want a job. Please try to understand. Please give me good work.