Social Security Disability Insurance
How Much can you earn and still be on SSDI?
Plus some tips on applying for SSDI

From a Post to the PolioLife Email List With Permissions

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Tue, 22 Jun 1999 10:40:37 -0700
From: LEA
To: Polio-life@eskimo.com
Subject: Re: tricky question

I have thoroughly investigated this lately, and it's STILL confusing. But here's what I Do know. This applies ONLY to SSDI. NOT SSI, which has totally different rules. Sorry this is long, but I have spent hours on the phone and in the SSDI office with this issue, so I might as well pass it on. If this doesn't apply to you or it's boring, please delete with my apology.

  1. If you have not yet GOTTEN SSDI : Unless you meet definite criteria (don't listen to anyone else saying THEY DID IT) you will be found able to work , if you work at ALL during your application process. The requirement for SSDI or SSI is extremely stringent. Some people seem to slip on easy as pie, others wait for two or more years and have to go for a hearing,. Assume the worst and don't take other people's cases as if they were your own. the younger you are the stricter it is. One of my attorney's clients worked two days while waiting to get on, and lost her case because of it. She would have won otherwise, according to the attorney, and they even lost on the appeal.

  2. After you have started getting disability, you do not have to report any wages under 200.00 a month. I work occasionally, as a desk clerk here, (about 2 or 3 days a month) and as long as it's no more than 200.00 I have been told I do not have to report it. I will ANYWAY, of course, but it doesn't APPARENTLY count against you. No money is taken away , and there is no change in your status as far as I now know.

  3. Any wages OVER 200.00 a month WILL be reported (you must fill out their form), and any month in which you make over 200.00 is considered a "TRIAL WORK MONTH". You get 7 (or 9, I forget, it's too early in the morning here), of these TRIAL WORK MONTHS, in any 5-year period, and they do not need to be consecutive. IF, in those 7 (or9?) trial work months, if your income averages over 500.00/month you are OFF. Don't let them sweet-talk it differently. They will go on about how your medicare continues, etc, and make this sound positive , but you are OFF.

  4. If you make over 200.00 but under 500.00 for the 7 (or 9?) trial work months, then your trial work period ends. You will not get any trial work periods for the next five years. This is where it gets very murky, and different workers say different things, but as long as you don't make over 200.00 , I THINK it's still ok, You get your pay, but after you have expended those TRIAL WORK months, (by making over 200.00 for a number of months-NOT necessarily consecutive months, MIND YOU)) your case is considered month by month, and THEN, if you make over 500.00 in any one month, you are OFF.

The million dollar QUESTION IS: are you off for that month or for good? I've gotten both answers, so you better ASSUME it's for good. I DO.

All in all, if you want to play it safe:

The answer is, as long as you never make over 200.00 a month you are pretty safe, BUT:

You should report it on their form, anyway, because the form gives you a chance to explain that it was NOT normal work, and that you could not do more of it. (the form lets you show that special accommodations were made for you, or that you got paid less, or you did it at home etc). It's good back up in a review.

Don't make 205.00 and think they will count it as a non-trial work month. they DO count ANYTHING over 200.00 , EVEN 1.00.

Watch your hours. if you made less than 200.00 but worked MORE than 40 hours in one month, that will PROBABLY constitute a trial work period.

Consider any interaction you have with the SSDI office to be risky at best. they don't always tell you the rules and no two workers agree.

Example: I called the 1-800 number as suggested, and asked about what would happen if I made 230.00 every month, BUT, this job is very unique, and I could never make anywhere NEAR 500.00 a month doing it, etc. I asked if they would HAVE to consider that TRIAL WORK, since it would never lead to full time employment. the lady on the phone said NO PROBLEM. She would file a request for me, and explain that I would never make over 300.00 and they would wave all of this.

WHEN I got into the office with my pay stubs, and had a couple of months where I made 210.00 and 229.00 , they COUNTED them as trial work. When I said the worker at the 800 number told me it would be fine, THEY LAUGHED, looked down their noses at me (as only a social worker can) and said NO WAY. I lost two or three trial work months for nothing!

So be very very careful. And don't believe everything that any one social worker says. It's best to go to your local office and get it IN WRITING with a managers signature, but even THEN, it all depends on what they decide at higher levels. (you will learn).

Finally, IF you are still applying for SSDI, and have not won your case, you shouldn't even be THINKING or ASKING about any of this stuff, at SSA, PERIOD. (if you ignore everything else I say, better take this to heart).

Hope this helps.

Lea

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