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Can a person with a disability work without losing benefits?

Putting in a hard day's work is a matter of pride for many people in Pennsylvania, which is why some of those with disabilities may want to try to re-enter the workforce at some point in their lives. They may, however, be concerned about whether their disability will truly allow them to work in the long run, and what will happen to their Social Security disability benefits when they go back to work.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that some people receiving benefits may want to try to go back to work, but may be unsure if they will be able to do so. Therefore, the agency has what is known as a "Trial Work Period" (TWP). A TWP lets a person test out his or her ability to work for nine months. While a person is under a TWP, they will continue to receive the full amount of disability benefits that they had been getting, regardless of how much they earn during the TWP. The only requirements are that the person reports their work activity to the SSA and the person has a disabling impairment.

A TWP begins once a person goes back to work and performs "services," which is defined as making a gross income over $810 monthly in 2016 or working over 80 hours monthly if a person is self-employed. It is not necessary for the nine TWP service months to be consecutive, so long as they take place within a period of 60 months.

That being said, it is important to know that the SSA can review a person's medical evidence that shows that the person has sufficiently recovered at any time, meaning that it is possible for a person to lose their benefits during their TWP if the SSA deems that they have recovered. However, if a person is under the Ticket to Work program, a continuing disability review will not be undertaken.

In the end, the TWP may be just the thing a person with a disabling condition needs to test whether or not they can return to work. By being able to keep their benefits during that time, the person has the financial security needed should their efforts to return to the workforce fail.

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Pennsylvania Bar Association Philadelphia Bar Co-Chair SSD Committee Philadelphia Bar Co-Chair SSD Committee