LAW FIRM BLOG
Ticket To Work Program
July 08, 2020
Social Security’s work incentives" programs and trial periods are aimed at helping SSDI/SSI recipients transition back into the workforce without sacrificing their benefits. The “Ticket to Work Programs” (TWP) has special rules to make it possible for people receiving SSDI benefits or SSI payments to work and still receive full monthly payments. Participating in the TWP does not reduce an individual’s SSDI/SSI benefit amount, regardless of how much he or she earns, as long as the work activity is reported and the disabling impairment continues. Medicare or Medicaid benefits also continue while you work.
Ticket to Work offers people receiving SSDI and SSI with an opportunity for vocational rehabilitation, job training, job referrals, education, work experiences and other services to help them become self-supporting. The program waives the SGA earnings limits, so you continue collecting your disability benefits while you engage in trial work with employers who have enrolled to participate. If you get a job through the program, your disability benefits cease. The benefits will resume if you have to stop working because your medical condition worsens, and you may not have to file a new application. You won’t undergo medical reviews while you’re participating in the program and making timely progress pursuing your plan for returning to work.
Trial Work Period
The “Trial Work Period” allows individuals who receive SSDI/SSI benefits to attempt to re-enter the workforce and gives them at least nine cumulative trial work months in which they can work and earn as much as they can without it endangering their continued eligibility. If you lose your job during a trial work period, your benefits aren’t affected. The trial months can be spaced over a 60-month period and do not have to be consecutive. However, if the individual's earnings match the SGA limit in the tenth month their benefits will be stopped.
In 2020, a trial work month is any month your total earnings are over $910 (after deducting disability-related expenses). If you’re self-employed, you have a trial work month when you earn more than $910 (after business expenses) or work more than 80 hours in your own business. Once your earnings are higher than $910 for nine months during a 60-month period, the SSA will review your income record. If your average earnings during the trial work period hit or surpassed the SGA threshold of $1,260 for 2020 ($2,110 for the blind), your benefits will stop. But if your average earnings during the trial work period were below that amount, your benefits will continue.
Extended Period of Eligibility
If you are able to work while continuing to receive benefits, you can enter what is known as an “Extended Period of Eligibility.” After your trial work period, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month your earnings aren’t “substantial.” In 2020, the SSA considers earnings over $1,260 ($2,110 if you’re blind) to be substantial. However, the SSA deducts the work expenses you have because of your disability when they count your earnings. No new application or disability decision is needed to receive a Social Security disability benefit during this period. If you lose your job during the 36-month extended period of eligibility, the SSA will reinstate your benefits as long as you’re still disabled.
Even if your benefits end due to continued employment, they can be reinstated during a period when your disability makes you unable to work. If your benefits stop because of substantial earnings, you have five years after the month your benefits stopped to ask the SSA to restart your benefits if you’re unable to keep working because of your condition. You won’t have to file a new application or wait for your benefits to restart while they review your medical condition.
If an individual joins the TWP and works for six months but then is laid off, he or she is entitled to unemployment benefits and may retain his or her SSDI benefits. In these instances, people may receive unemployment benefits and SSDI benefits at the same time.
Unsuccessful Work Attempt
If you went back to work and had to quit or reduce your hours below the SGA level because of limitations caused by your disability, your work can qualify as an “Unsuccessful Work Attempt” (UWA). If it does, it won’t prevent you from getting disability benefits for the months you worked.
To qualify as a UWA, your disorder must have caused you to reduce your hours because either you couldn't do the work, your doctor’s restrictions wouldn’t allow you to do the work, your employer took away special accommodations that allowed you to do the work (like permission to work irregular hours or to work at a lower level of productivity), or circumstances that allowed you to work changed (like help getting to and from work).
Generally, if you worked for a period of six months or less and had to stop or reduce the amount of work you did due to your impairment, the work done will be considered a UWA and not be considered an SGA that would keep you from getting benefits.
A period of work that is 3 months or less generally will be counted as an UWA as long as you leave your job (or reduce gross earnings below $1,260 a month in 2020) for medical reasons, or special conditions that helped you work are no longer available.
A period of work longer than 3 months and no more than 6 months can be considered as a UWA if you left your job (or reduced your gross earnings below $1,260 a month in 2020) for medical reasons or the special conditions that helped you work are no longer available, and you experienced frequent absences or unsatisfactory work performance, you were in remission of your condition during this time period, or special conditions essential to your performance were removed.
A period of longer than 6 months is never considered a UWA.
UWAs are not counted against you, but any period in which SSA determines you worked enough and/or made enough money to count as SGA will disqualify you from an award for that period of time in which you worked.