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The Flint Journal & Genesee County Bar Association’s “Ask the Attorney”

By Attorneys at MACDONALD & MACDONALD PLLC

Q. I am receiving Social Security Disability, but I want to try to return to work. If I try, will I lose my benefits?

A. The government does not immediately terminate Social Security Disability benefits simply because you try to work. The disability program is designed to encourage the disabled to return to work by gradually reducing benefits. If you return to work and earn more than a certain amount ($720/month in 2012) for nine non-consecutive months over a 60 month period in what Social Security calls a “trial work period,” your benefits will phase out over the following 36 months. Benefits can still be payable over those 36 months whenever your earnings dip below $1010/month for non-blind recipients. Medicare benefits can continue for 39 months, and sometimes longer. Whether you return to work or not, Social Security can also instead stop benefits based upon evidence of medical improvement. (If you sign up for Social Security’s Ticket to Work Program, benefits will not stop based upon evidence of medical improvement.) You should also consider how returning to work will effect other benefits like SSI, Medicaid, disability pensions and workers’ compensation; there are also special rules for blind persons. It is smart to do some planning before you return to work so that you smoothly transition into a decent paying job that also meets your health insurance needs.

Atty. Robert J. MacDonald
–June 2008 column (updated April 2012)