I had an interesting meeting last week with Sheila Zipf of the non-profit Bobby Dodd Institute in Atlanta. The Bobby Dodd Institute (BDI) is “committed to reducing the unemployment rate by helping people with disabilities and disadvantages overcome barriers to work.” BDI works in partnership with governmental agencies and private enterprise to help train and place people with disabilities. BDI provides vocational training and job placement for many disabled adults who otherwise would not be able to enter the workforce.
Sheila and I discussed some mutually compatible territory between us through the Social Security Trial Work Program. Helping to re-integrate individuals with disabilities into the larger community with employment as part of the process is a worthy goal. With rehabilitation and vocational training many individuals may overcome obstacles to employment. However, individuals who might be candidates for part-time or modified employment may be discouraged from attempting this type of employment for fear of losing Social Security benefits.
In recent years, Social Security has encouraged trial work periods by alleviating the perceived fear of forfeiting hard-won Social Security benefits. During a trial work period, a beneficiary receiving Social Security disability benefits may test his or her ability to work and still be considered disabled. SSA allows a beneficiary to work for at least 9 months in a rolling 60 month period. Earnings at or above $720 in a month will constitute a work period. After a trial work period, you have 36 months in which you can work and still receive benefits for any month that earnings are not “substantial” ($1010/month or $1690/month if you are blind). If your benefits become “substantial” then you will no longer receive Social Security payments. However, you have five years during which you may request for benefits to be reinstated if you become unable to work again because of your medical condition. You will not have to file a new application for benefits and your benefits will begin immediately.