July 8, 2024


Liz Yoder, CFP®

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Maintaining Disability Benefits While Working Part-Time: A Guide for Special Needs Individuals

Engaging in part-time employment while on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a concern for many recipients. In 2023, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that 7.4 million individuals, alongside 89,000 spouses and 1.1 million children, are supported by SSDI. This support extends to workers incapacitated before retirement age as well as their immediate families, with beneficiaries receiving an average monthly stipend of $1,489 as reported by NerdWallet.

SSDI provides financial assistance to individuals unable to engage in significant gainful activity (SGA) due to a disabling condition lasting a year or more. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), in 2024, the monthly earnings considered substantial for non-blind individuals are set at $1,550 and $2,590 for those who are blind.

Navigating SSDI with Part-Time Work: A Special Needs Financial Perspective

Despite most SSDI beneficiaries not returning to the workforce, over 65,000 individuals did so in 2021, concluding their benefits due to surpassing the SGA earnings limit. Employment, notwithstanding a disability or an improved condition, presents an opportunity to earn potentially more than the SSDI benefits. It also provides additional benefits such as health insurance, retirement savings plans, and the pleasure of engaging in a fulfilling occupation. Furthermore, being employed can enrich one’s life with intellectual stimulation, a sense of belonging, social interaction, career advancement opportunities, and enhanced mental well-being.

Our Special Needs Certified Financial PlannersTM can discuss your options.

For SSDI recipients pondering re-employment, the fear of losing benefits is valid. Concerns typically revolve around the ability to sustain oneself and dependents after resuming work post-disability. The SSA introduces the Trial Work Period (TWP) to mitigate these concerns.

The TWP allows beneficiaries to test the employment waters without forgoing their benefits immediately. This program supports beneficiaries to work for at least nine months while still receiving full SSDI benefits, regardless of earnings. This nine-month period, spread over 60 months, does not require consecutive service months. A service month within the TWP is defined by earnings exceeding $1,110 in 2024, an increase from 2023, rather than the traditional SGA threshold.

Maximizing SSDI While Re-entering the Workforce: Essential Tips for Special Needs Planning

Eligibility for the TWP necessitates an ongoing disability status, even as one attempts to engage in SGA. The SSA discontinued benefits for nearly 19,786 individuals in 2021 due to health improvements that facilitated a return to work.

Following the TWP, the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) provides a 36-month safety net. During this time, beneficiaries can still receive SSDI payments for months where earnings are beneath the SGA level. Exceeding the SGA threshold results in a temporary continuation of benefits for a grace period of two months, after which benefits are halted until earnings fall below SGA again, within the 36-month time frame, without needing to reapply.

If considering re-entering the workforce post-disability, consulting a special needs planning attorney is advisable. They offer guidance on how working part-time affects SSDI benefits and assist in navigating SSA work incentives to maintain benefit eligibility.

Contact us for Special Needs Certified Financial PlanningTM for help.

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