Social Security Disability is generally intended to provide financial benefits to those who are incapable of working. Nonetheless, some work activity does not necessarily prevent a person from receiving Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) also has rules in place to promote the policy goal of assisting disabled individuals with a return to work if their health improves or other factors make working possible. If you are disabled and considering working, here are five terms you should know:
Substantial Gainful Activity
When SSA evaluates a disability application, they will first consider whether a person is engaged in “Substantial Gainful Activity,” or SGA. Someone cannot be considered disabled if he is.
For 2017, a person will normally be considered to be engaged in SGA if he has earnings over a threshold amount of $1,170 a month. (The amount is higher for blind individuals.) However, if a person has out-of-pocket expenses that are required for him to work and related to his impairments (such as someone who cannot drive and has transportation costs), these expenses should be deducted from the earnings considered by SSA.
Also, if a disabled person has earnings from a job that allows for special conditions (like a job coach in a sheltered workshop) he should not be considered to be earning SGA if the real value of the work does not exceed the threshold amount, even if the earnings are over SGA.
Unsuccessful Work Attempt
Even if a person is earning income above the threshold level, that work should not be considered SGA if it is an “unsuccessful work attempt,” or UWA. If someone held a job for less than six months, but was unable to sustain it due to frequent impairment-related absences or problems with satisfactory performance resulting from her impairments, that person could be considered disabled while engaged in the UWA, even with earnings above SGA.
Trial Work Period
During the Trial Work Period (TWP), someone who has already been approved for disability can try working without losing his disabled status. As of January 1, 2017, a trial work period is triggered if a disabled individual has earnings of over $840 in a month. After that, a person can earn in excess of that amount for eight more months over a five year period and still be considered disabled. After the trial work period has ended, SSA will conduct a review and determine if the person remains disabled.
Extended Period of Eligibility
After the TWP ends, an &lduqo;extended period of eligibility” (EPE) begins. It lasts for 36 months. As long as the individual is still considered disabled after the TWP, an individual can receive benefits for months in which her earnings were below the SGA level.
If someone is earning over SGA after the EPE, benefits will be terminated. However, this person can be eligible for Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) of benefits if she later becomes unable to earn SGA due to her medical conditions. One major advantage of this is that someone can receive provisional benefits while SSA is considering an EXR, whereas someone forced to apply again with a new application could not receive benefits while the application is pending.
Our Social Security Attorneys Can Guide You through The Process of Acquiring Benefits
Applying for Social Security disability benefits alone can be difficult, but Keller & Keller is here to help. If you’re applying for benefits, or need to appeal a denial, we’re happy to speak with you in a free, no-obligation consultation about your claim. Contact us using the form on this page to get started!