Friday, November 09, 2012

Can I work without risking my SSD disability Benefits?


"I am a current recipient of SSD. I am age 52, widowed, and disabled. I am also living overseas. I qualified for SSD in 2009, nearly a year after my late husband died. I began collecting in January 2010. The total amount I collect is about $2200.

Initially I was not working but I did work in 2010, very part time, earning $695 a month. In July 2011 I stopped working again. I moved to Israel in August 2011. In January 2012 I began doing some freelance work, earning an average of about $500 a month.

I am not participating in Ticket To Work. That actually would be difficult given that I am living overseas. Based on all my conversations with SSA reps I have been given to understand that I am allowed to earn up to $720 per month without jeopardizing my SSD. However, I was reading your site and I read about SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity) and that it is $1010 per month for 2012. So now, I am confused.

I actually have the opportunity to do more work than I have been but I do not want to risk losing the SSD I currently receive. Even though I can get more work, I cannot get paid well enough to make up for the loss of that -- my disability precludes me from using the phone (I am severely to profoundly deaf) and I now have the added problem of language – my hearing also precludes me from learning it well enough to use it in a work situation. All the jobs I have found, thus far, have been in English, and do not require me to use the phone.

I would welcome higher earnings but will NOT risk my SSD. Can you please explain to me these two very different numbers?

Thank you!"

I would be very careful about my work activity especially since you are residing in another country. With regard to the confusion about monthly earnings amounts, 720 is the monthly amount that can be counted as a trial work month for Social Security disability.

All Social Security disability beneficiaries are allowed nine trial work months in which they are allowed to earn any amount, these months do not have to be consecutive and they can occur anywhere in a five year period. The $1010.00 amount is the 2012 substantial gainful activity amount.

SSA was correct in stating that either of these amounts can potentially affect your Social Security disability. The more important monthly amount is $1010.00, because any month you earn over that amount, you may not be entitled to your monthly disability benefit provided you have used up your nine trial work months. This could cause a suspension of disability benefits or even a termination at some point in the future.

In your case, you will always be able to be reentitled to disability should you need it because of your particular condition. However, work activity could cause you to have months with no disability benefits and overpayments, so be careful. Any earnings can trigger a work review, Social Security has to address all earnings they become aware of at some point. As long as you do not earn over the substantial gainful activity amount (this is a gross amount of earnings or a net amount of self-employment), you should not have any problems.

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