Sam is receiving Social Security Disability benefits as a result of a low back condition. He was previously employed as a well driller but cannot perform that job due to the rigorous physical aspects of his former job. Sam has stayed in touch with his former employer, Dave. Dave’s well drilling business is thriving as a result of the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom. Dave asked Sam to come back to work as a consultant and assured Sam that he will not be performing any strenuous tasks. But Sam is concerned that if he returns to work, his Social Security Disability benefits will stop.
Question: Can Sam return to work and still collect Social Security Disability benefits?
Answer: Yes, there are special rules that allow people receiving Social Security Disability benefits (or Supplemental Security Income) to return to work and still receive monthly payments. And if Lou cannot continue working because of his back problems his benefits can start again.
Social Security has created work incentives to allow people receiving benefits to return to work. These incentives include continued cash benefits for a time and continued Medicare or Medicaid while Lou returns to work.
This “trial work period” will allow Sam to test his ability to work for at least nine months. During this trial work period, Lou will receive his full Social Security benefits regardless of how much he earns as long as he reports his work activity to Social Security and he continues to have a disabling impairment. In 2012, a trial work month is any month in which his total earnings are $720 or more. The trial work period continues until you has worked nine months within a 60-month period. After this trial work period, Sam also has 36 months during which he can work and still receive benefits for any month when his earnings are not “substantial”. In 2012, earnings of $1010 or more are considered “substantial”. If Sam earns more than $1010 per month after the trial work period, his benefits will stop.
If you have questions about your Social Security claim, contact me at [email protected] or call (570) 347-1011 for a free consultation.
Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.