Are you on SSI or SSDI, but want to go back to work? The Ticket to Work program provides multiple resources and services to help you find employment. Anyone aged 16-64 who receives SSA insurance benefits through SSI or SSDI are automatically eligible for this program. In 2020, some changes were made to the SSDI Ticket to Work program guidelines. Keep reading to find out what these changes are and how they affect your SSDI or SSI benefits.
Trial Work Period Changes
This year the Social Security Administration (SSA) added a Trial Work Period (TWP) where you can figure out how well you’ll handle work with your disability. During the trial, you can continue to receive your SSI or SSDI benefits. Any month you earn at least $910 (increased from $880 in 2019) or work 80 plus hours (if self-employed) counts toward your TWP. Your trial will end after you’ve used nine months of TWP service within five years.
Extended Period of Eligibility Updates
When your trial work period ends, you’ll enter a 36-month phase known as Extended Period of Eligibility, or EPE. During this period, the SSA determines, on a monthly basis, whether you qualify for SSDI wages while you work or not. If you earn below the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level from your job during the EPE period, you’ll keep receiving an SSDI check.
The SGA for 2020 is $1,260 per month for most SSDI recipients. For recipients who are blind, the SGA is $2,110. You’ll also get a grace period, consisting of the first month and the next two months of your EPE period, where you remain eligible for SSDI wages while working above the SGA limit. After your EPE ends, your benefits will end if you continue to earn more than the SGA level from your job.
Continuation of SSI Benefits Adjustments
You can also work and continue receiving SSI benefits. The Ticket to Work program lets you keep your SSA wages as long as you earn less than the federal benefit and SSI wage limit for SSI. In 2020, the limit for both is $783. One thing to keep in mind is that your earnings from a job will impact your SSI benefits amount. What will happen is that your monthly benefit will be lowered in accordance with your countable income.
The SSA will deduct 50 cents from your monthly benefits for every dollar you earn. This doesn’t include the first $85 you earn. Say, for example, you earn $500 a month from your job. $500 minus $85 equals $415. $415 ÷ 2 equals $207.50. Therefore, your SSI benefits will be reduced by $207.50 each month. You can now earn up to $1,650 per month, as long as you have no other income, before your SSI benefits get reduced to zero.
A new addition to the Ticket to Work program is Expedited Reinstatement, or EP. You can file for EP if your gross income falls below the SGA level or stops completely within five years after your benefits were stopped because of increased work activity. You must file a new application for SSI or SSDI benefits after each five-year period to be re-entered into the system. While your EP application is being processed by the Social Security Administration, they will pay you benefits for six months.
To be approved, you must prove you’re medically disabled. Special approval rules apply to blind people. If your application is denied, you can keep the benefits paid during the processing phase. Fortunately, your application is much more likely to be approved if the SSA can’t prove you’ve become well enough medically to work since the last time you received benefits.