When you live with a disability, the thought of returning to work can be overwhelming. You may face fears about how employers will treat you or anxiety over whether you can find a job that will accommodate your needs. Fortunately, our Employment Network can help ensure a smooth and successful transition. If you want every available resource, the Ticket to Work (TTW) program could provide the safety net you need when reentering the workforce.
Ticket to Work offers significant advantages for people who have been out of the workforce due to a disability. Not only can beneficiaries earn much more from working than Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits provide, but they can also keep the full amount of their earnings and benefits for several months in their new job. They are also protected from Continuing Disability Reviews while they participate in TTW.
The biggest advantage of TTW is that it’s risk-free. If you discover that you cannot continue working due to your medical condition, your benefits can be restarted without the need to file a new application. If you’re on SSDI benefits and considering returning to work, call (888) 689-6760 to speak with one of our team members.
Benefits of the Ticket to Work Program for SSDI Beneficiaries
The SSA understands that it can be difficult to return to work with a disability. For this reason, beneficiaries with a Ticket to Work are allowed a trial period of nine months to test their ability to return to employment. During this trial work period, disabled beneficiaries who report their work activity will continue to receive their full Social Security benefits—no matter how much income they earn.
The earnings required to qualify as a trial work month change each year. In 2023, a beneficiary may earn $1,050 or work 80 or more hours in their own business in a successful trial work month. Benefits will continue until a beneficiary has used nine cumulative trial work months within 60 months.
After these first nine months, the SSA will reevaluate the amount of benefits based on your earnings. Factors that can affect your benefits include:
- Grace period. As long as you are earning less than a substantial income, your total cash and medical benefits should continue for a grace period of three months. In 2023, Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) earnings are set at $1470 per month) or more.
- Extended period of eligibility. After the first year, you have a period of three years where you can work and still receive benefits in any month your earnings aren’t considered substantial. Your benefits may stop if you earn more than $1,470 per month (before deductions) during the 36-month extended period of eligibility. Blind beneficiaries may earn up to $2,460 monthly before their earnings affect their benefits. However, these limits should be calculated after any work expenses have been subtracted.
- Disability-related work expenses. Working with a disability can incur a number of costs to make it possible to perform your job duties. Fortunately, these costs can be deducted from your earnings so that they won’t count against you in benefit calculations. Typical expenses include transportation to and from work (such as bus fare or paratransit costs), prescriptions, counseling services, assistive devices, or specialized work equipment.
- Low or discontinued earnings. Your SSDI cash benefits can be reinstated anytime after your trial work period if your earnings fall below Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). If you lose your job or earn below the SGA threshold, you could have your benefits started again right away without filing a new application or waiting for a medical review. You can apply for expedited reinstatement of your benefits if it’s been five years or less since your benefits.
- Voluntary benefit withholding. Some claimants with substantial earnings can request withholding of cash benefits instead of risking ineligibility. Blind claimants with substantial earnings may be eligible for a disability “freeze,” allowing SSA to base future benefit payments on the most successful periods of your work life.
Will My Medicare Coverage Stop If I Lose My Benefits?
Many people worry about losing their health insurance through Medicare when their Social Security disability benefits end. As long as you are still considered disabled, you remain eligible for the following Medicare health coverage:
- Part A. Your free Medicare Hospital Insurance coverage should continue for at least 93 months after your trial work period. After that, you can continue Part A coverage by paying a monthly premium.
- Part B. You can continue to pay the Medicare Supplemental Medical Insurance premium or decline Part B coverage in writing.
- Part D. If you are enrolled in Prescription Drug coverage, your Part D coverage should continue for at least 93 months after your trial work period.
Reporting Requirements for the Social Security Disability Benefits
To maintain your benefits eligibility, you will have to report certain life changes to the Social Security Administration as soon as they occur, including whether you:
- Lose your job. If you’re fired or leave work during the trial work period, your benefits will continue as usual. If you stop working during your extended period of eligibility, you must notify the SSA to reinstate your benefits.
- Start a new job. Your Ticket to Work allows you to find the right job for you without risking your benefits as long as you still have a disability.
- Have substantial job changes. Your benefits may be affected if you’re required to take on additional duties, work more or fewer hours, start paying disability-related expenses to work, or change your pay rate.
Let Us Help You Return to Work and Keep Your Benefits
Disability Services of America has helped countless workers achieve their dreams of going back to work without risking the benefits they fought hard to obtain. If you need help returning to work after an injury or disabling medical condition, please fill out our online contact form or call (888) 689-6760 to learn more.