By Justin Taylor
The fear of returning to work is very prevalent for those that collect social security disability benefits. People receiving these benefits often rely heavily on them for their daily care and necessities; the risk of losing that income causes many to stop pursuing the goal of returning to work. However, this fear can be alleviated through the use of certain Social Security Programs that encourage those with a disability to return to work.
Social Security has two different disability programs. First is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is the main program under which people receive payments. The second is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which gives additional payment to individuals with limited income and resources. Both programs offer a unique incentive for those that are recipients of them. These incentives are to encourage people to return to work with peace of mind knowing they will still be covered. Furthermore, if used correctly, they can greatly benefit a person looking to return to work or start their own organization.
The first incentive is the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) offered under SSI. It can be used to receive additional training and resources necessary to return to work or even provide the requisite knowledge and equipment to start a business. The program is a strong incentive for recipients of SSI to return to work because it allows them to obtain equipment and knowledge that they might otherwise have to pay for out-of-pocket. Without this program, recipients who wish to return to work but lack the skills might not see a viable way of returning to work. Going to work for an able-bodied individual might seem mundane, but for a disabled person gathering the requisite equipment to do so can be rather costly and difficult. Furthermore, a disability might limit the recipient’s career choices and cause them to lose valuable knowledge that they have already gained, thus forcing them to start over in a new career field where learning can also come at a cost. This program alleviates these issues and provides a way for disabled persons to gather everything that is necessary to start working again.
The second incentive is the Trial Work Period. This is an incentive program offered under SSDI that allows a recipient to take a salary even though they might not have the capacity to work full-time in the beginning. The recipient is allowed nine trial months in which they can work for more than $1,050 or over 80 hours and has no impact on their benefits. The recipient has a sixty-month period to use their nine trial months before they start seeing an effect on their benefits. Once the recipient uses their nine trial months, they then enter the next phase of the program. This phase consists of a three-year period in which the recipient will still receive their social security benefits in any month that they do not earn “substantial” [Footnote 1] income. This program is helpful because returning to work full-time can be difficult for a disabled person, and the Trial Work Period allows recipients to freely test their ability to work again without fear of losing their benefits.
The strength of these programs can really be seen for a person receiving both SSDI and SSI because each offers a program that is suited for different stages of returning to work. PASS allows an individual to gain the foundational skills necessary to return to work and can help them gain knowledge without the price of paying for it. Then, once the recipient feels confident in their skills and knowledge, the Trial Work Period allows them to start returning to work part-time or full-time with the knowledge that their benefits will still cover them should their disability make them unable to work again. An attorney understanding these programs and how they can help to achieve a client’s vision of starting an organization or returning to work can help alleviate the fear the client may have and also offer additional support in ways that are not always expected.
Footnote 1. Substantial earnings are anything over $1,470 a month.