The Social Security Administration (SSA) has back to work programs and back to work incentives that allow you to attempt to get back to work without losing your Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Below, we will discuss the rules for SSD “back to work” programs, including the SSA’s:
- Ticket to work program,
- PASS program (plan to achieve self-support), and
- Back to work incentives like the trial work period and extended eligibility period.
Social Security Disability Back to Work Programs
The SSA has two programs that will allow people receiving SSD or SSI benefits to try to get back to work without losing their benefits – the Ticket to Work program and the PASS program.
Ticket to Work Program
The Ticket to Work program helps disabled workers get back to their jobs by providing:
- Free vocational rehabilitation,
- Job training,
- Job search assistance, and
- Other employment support.
As long as the worker is participating in the Ticket to Work program and making progress toward their work goals, there are no medical reviews to determine continued eligibility while in the program.
For more information, the SSA has several publications on Ticket to Work including “Your Ticket to Work” and “The Red Book,” a guide to the SSA’s employment support programs.
Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS) Program
The purpose of the PASS (plan to achieve self-support) program is to help you get the items, services, or skills needed to reach your work goals.
The PASS plan can help you go back to work without losing your benefits by not counting the money you set aside for achieving your work goals when calculating your income to determine eligibility for benefits.
You can use the saved money for:
- Transportation to and from work,
- Tuition, books, fees, and supplies for school or job training,
- Attendant care,
- Employment services like job coaching or resume writing,
- Assistive technology that is used for employment,
- Supplies to start a business,
- Work-related equipment and tools, and
- Uniforms and safety equipment for employment.
How do you apply for the PASS program?
You can find an application on the SSA’s website. You will need to submit a plan that includes:
- Your work goals,
- The steps you will need to take to reach your work goals and how long each step will take,
- The items or services you will need to reach your work goals like training or equipment,
- Cost estimates for the items and services needed,
- The amount of money that you will need to set aside each month to pay for the items and services needed, and
- A plan to keep the PASS program funds separate from your other funds (a separate bank account, for example).
Summary of Social Security Disability Back to Work Incentives
What are the Social Security Administration’s back to work incentives?
- A trial work period of nine months during which you receive your full Social Security Disability benefits regardless of how much you earn,
- An extended eligibility period – 36 months during which you can work and receive benefits as long as your income is not “substantial” and is less than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit set for that year ($1550 per month in 2024),
- Expedited reinstatement – if you need to restart your benefits within five years after benefits stopped due to substantial earnings, you won’t have to wait for a review of your medical condition or file an application,
- Continuation of Medicare – your Medicare Part A coverage will continue for at least 93 months after the 9-month trial period ends,
- Work expenses – work expenses like transportation or counseling services may be deducted from your monthly earnings before determining eligibility.
In short, the SSA wants you to get back in the workforce and doesn’t want you to stay home because you are afraid your benefits will end or it will be difficult to get them re-approved.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Back to Work Incentives
The rules for SSI are different in some respects than the rules for SSD incentives including SSI continuation, work expenses related to the disability, and the exclusion of student earned income (if you are under age 22, go to school, or regularly attend a training program, some of your earnings will not count towards your income cap.
Special Rules for Workers Who Are Blind
There are special rules for blind workers who are receiving social security benefits, including:
- A substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit that is much higher than everyone else’s – $2590 a month in 2024, for example, whereas the limit for everyone else is $1550 per month, and
- The option to get a “disability freeze” where the SSA doesn’t count the years where your earnings were less due to your disability when calculating your future benefits.
Your Social Security Disability attorney on the Axelrod team can help you to apply for benefits, gather your medical evidence and present it to the SSA, and file any necessary appeals if your benefits are denied.
Whether you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits, or you have already applied and your claim has been denied, call Axelrod and Associates at 843-258-4582 or complete our online contact form for a free initial consultation with a SC Social Security Disability attorney.