If you receive disability benefits Social Security has special rules making it possible to work and still receive monthly benefit payments. There are several programs that can help you get back to work such as the Ticket to Work program or the PASS program. If you want to try to work again contact Social Security Administration (SSA) and they will guide you to the best program for your situation.
Regardless of whether you enroll in one of the SSA programs or find employment on your own, one thing to be very aware of is the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) ruling. Social Security defines Substantial Gainful Activity as part-time or full time work for a profit. Each year SSA determines the amount of earnings they consider to be substantial and gainful. In 2014 if one receives any earnings over $1070 per month SSA considers the beneficiary to have substantial and gainful employment thus they are no longer disabled and benefits terminate. If you are blind the SGA amount for 2014 is $1800 per month. There is a trial period that allows you to work and go over the SGA amount but once the trial period ends it only takes one month of substantial and gainful employment and you lose your disability benefits. However, there are ways to lower your SGA so you can keep working and still receive your benefits.
The first way to lower your SGA earnings is by deducting Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE). Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE) are costs of items or services needed because of one’s disability in order to work. Examples of IRWE are transportation costs, medical devices and medical treatments. If your disability prevents you from using public transportation to your job then you are entitled to deduct the cost of taxi’s or driver assistance from your monthly earnings. If your disability requires the use of wheelchairs, leg braces, respiratory equipment or any other medical device for you to do your job these expenses can be deducted from your monthly earnings as well. Regularly prescribed medical treatment or therapy necessary to control your disability condition can also be deducted from your monthly earnings. Medicines such as anti-convulsion drugs, anti-depressant drugs as well as the physician’s fee and lab work associated with these medicines are considered IRWE and allowable deductions from your monthly earnings. Medical supplies such as incontinence pads, elastic stockings and catheters are all examples of IRWE thus can be deducted from your monthly earnings. It is important for you to be aware of your IRWE expenses so if your monthly work expenses go over the $1070 SGA amount in 2014 you can inform SSA about your IRWE expenses so you do not lose your benefits.
If you don’t have any IRWE or you do not have enough work expenses to lower your monthly earnings you can make sure that Social Security is using your actual work earnings and not your monthly earnings. Social Security only cares about the actual work hours. If you receive any non work hour pay such as holiday earnings, overtime payments, bonuses or sick pay causing you to exceed your SGA you are entitled to reduce your monthly earnings by all non worked hours. Hopefully between your IRWE and non work hours you can get your monthly earnings below the SGA of $1070 for 2014.
There is another way to have your SGA earnings reduced but this is very subjective and would probably be best done with an attorney. However, SSA states that if your earnings are valued more than your work you can subtract the extra pay off your monthly earnings. An example of this would be if you work the same job getting the same pay as another non disabled employee but because of your disability you require more supervision, more breaks, need an aide, or need a modified work schedule than the non disabled employee then SSA needs to make a “special condition”. The SSA will determine how much value your work earnings should really be and allow you to subtract that from your SGA earnings.
These are just a few examples of how you can lower your substantial gainful activity earnings. Remember it only takes one month to exceed the SGA amount to lose your benefits. Check out the SSA website and be aware of all the different scenarios so you can continue to work while receiving monthly disability payments.