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Working While on Disability: Understand the Rules

Dealing with a physical or mental disability is tough in day-to-day life. If you need to file for disability through the Social Security Administration (SSA), this can be a complex process. For instance, not understanding the regulations surrounding Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can lead to the cessation of crucial financial support, which can create significant economic hardship on top of coping with the day-to-day challenges of suffering a disability.

Consider a scenario where you have the opportunity for part-time employment that aligns with your disability and how it might restrict your physical capabilities. While working may offer financial relief and emotional well-being, it also raises serious concerns about the potential loss of SSDI benefits. These are not trivial concerns. For many, SSDI or SSI benefits are the primary means for covering essential expenses such as medication, housing, and sustenance.

If you find yourself grappling with these questions, it may indicate that your benefits situation has evolved into a legal issue. Consulting with an experienced Virginia Social Security Disability attorney at Montagna Law could be an essential step in safeguarding your benefits while considering employment. To learn how our knowledgeable SSDI attorneys can help, call us at 877-622-8100 to schedule a free consultation.

Can I Lose My SSDI If I Start Working in Virginia?

Individuals who are receiving Social Security disability benefits and want to work will have to abide by special rules. If you get caught working under the table or go over designated income limits, you can lose your Social Security Disability benefits. This is true in Virginia and in other states. You are required by law to report all updates to the Social Security office to continue to lawfully maintain any SSDI benefits you receive.

What is Disability Fraud?

Disability fraud is when SSDI recipients do not report their correct income or an improved medical status and continue to collect benefits. The following are a few examples of disability fraud:

  • Collecting SSDI benefits and working without reporting income
  • Giving false statements about your disability to the SSA
  • Providing false documents regarding your disability to the SSA
  • Concealing information about a medical condition

Fraud involving SSDI benefits is not as common as many might think, but it does happen. Either way, the U.S. government does not take SSDI fraud lightly when they do discover unlawful receipt of disability benefits.

For help avoiding accidental disability fraud, consult with the attorneys at Montagna Law for free today.

How the SSA Finds Out About Your Work

It is never a good idea to try and quietly work if you are collecting disability benefits, hoping the SSA will not find out. The federal agency almost always finds out, and when they do, this constitutes committing SSDI fraud. This discovery opens up new problems for you, and you’ll also have to pay back any cash benefits you received.

One of the most common ways the SSA can find out about your undisclosed work status is through a disability review. Other ways the government can uncover your work status is through employer reports or if a third party (e.g., coworker, ex-spouse, family member, neighbor, or another individual, etc.) reports your work activity to the SSA. Always be 100% honest if you are collecting SSDI benefits.

Eligibility Criteria for Working While on SSDI Benefits in Virginia

If you already have SSDI benefits and are trying to work while managing your disability, it is best to consult an experienced Virginia Social Security disability attorney. Your lawyer can help you report the correct information to the SSA so you are not committing SSDI fraud. Additionally, your disability attorney can explain the work incentives offered to individuals who are trying to go back into the workforce and how to follow the rules.

Ticket to Work Program

If you would like to get back to work and self-support, the SSA administers a program called Ticket to Work. You are eligible if you are 18 to 64 years old and receive Social Security disability benefits. As a participator in this special disability program, you receive:

  • Free vocational rehabilitation
  • Training
  • Job referrals
  • Additional support for employment goals

Participation in this program is voluntary. While you are in this disability benefits program, this “free ticket,” per agency terms, allows you to bypass medical reviews as long as you make timely progress in reaching your goal of returning to work.

Trial Work Period

Another way to get back into the workforce while following SSA terms is to enter the Trial Work Period program. Administered by the SSA, this program permits you to “test your ability” to work while still receiving full disability cash benefits. How it works is to try working to see if you can tolerate doing so with your disability. During this period of time, you:

  • Go back to work for nine months (does not need to be consecutive)
  • Report work activity to the SSA
  • Continue following SSA’s rules for disability
  • Collect disability benefits in the form of SSDI checks (regardless of salary amounts)

SSA will track your earnings, and if you earn a certain amount when working (in 2022, this amount was $970 or more), it will count as one month of your Trial Work Period. If you earn less, that month will not be deducted from your nine months. Once you have worked nine months, you have used up your eligibility for the Trial Work Period and then enter a 36-month Extended Period of Eligibility where SSA evaluates your work and wages.

Virginia Income Limits: How Much Can You Earn?

Man filling out social security disability insurance form

How much money you make affects your SSDI benefits. To qualify, you cannot make more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). In 2023, this amount of money for beneficiaries to receive is set at $1,470 per month or $2,460 if you are blind. It is important to note that work expenses due to your disability are taken into account and could mean your monthly earnings are allowed to be higher while still receiving SSDI benefits.

Reporting Income: What Needs to be Disclosed While Working in Virginia?

As a Virginia resident, you must consistently update the SSA about your work and income status to maintain your eligibility to receive disability benefits. For instance, if you are able to work more than you initially could before you began receiving your SSDI benefits, you must report this new level of monthly income to the SSA.

You also must report when you start or stop work or if your duties, hours, or salary changes. In the event you start paying for expenses for work due to your disability, you should report this as well. Examples of this would be needing special transportation to get to work or needing counseling — the government may deduct these costs from your income before establishing eligibility for SSDI benefits.

What Happens If You Don’t Report Your Work to Social Security Administration?

Not reporting your work or salary to the SSA is a bad idea. Once the federal agency learns of your work status and higher salary, there is a good chance you will have to repay all the monthly benefits given to you while you were working. You may also be charged with Social Security disability fraud for not reporting your correct earned income or self-employment.
When to Consult a Virginia Disability Attorney

The highly knowledgeable Virginia Social Security Disability Insurance attorneys at Montagna Law thoroughly know the ins and outs of the SSDI application. We will start by gathering your medical records and other documentation to show the government why you need supplemental security income and other potential benefits.

We precisely know how to present SSDI cases to maximize our clients’ chances of success. We have gone through this process many times because this is our focus, dedication, and passion. If you suffer from a disability, you shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get the SSDI benefit amount you need to help cover your expenses.

Our legal team understands how the process works, why SSDI claims are denied, and what it takes to put forward the best claim possible. We know the dos and don’ts of disability claims and are skillful when getting a claim on the right track. Montagna Law hopes to be able to achieve these same results for you!

Want to Work in Virginia But Worried About Your Benefits?

Male attorney
If you are in need of help as you cope with an impairment or are worried about breaking SSA rules, the caring and compassionate attorneys at Montagna Law are here to assist you. We can help you with the SSDI application process and explore eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid.

Our law firm proudly serves the entire Hampton Roads area. To obtain a free case evaluation, call the SSDI attorneys at Montagna Law. Our phone number is 877-622-8100. Or, if you prefer, fill out our convenient online contact form.

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