The availability of Social Security disability benefits eases the financial burden of more than 8 million disabled workers along with 104,000 of their spouses and 1.4 million of their children, but it may not always be enough. If you discover that qualifying for Social Security disability insurance benefits still leaves you struggling to meet your financial obligations, there are other options available to you.
Increasing your monthly SSD payments
When determining the amount of the monthly payments you receive through the Social Security disability insurance program (SSD), neither the severity of your disability nor financial need factor into the calculation. To qualify for SSD benefits, you must have earned enough work credits at a job with earnings subject to Social Security taxes. The SSA refers to these as “covered earnings.”
If you meet the qualifying requirements, the monthly benefit you receive from SSD is based on a formula that uses an average of your lifetime covered earnings before the date of onset of your disability. The SSA reports that the average payment to a disabled worker was $1,277 at the end of last year. Payments are adjusted each year to allow for increases in the cost of living.
The type or severity of the medical condition causing you to be disabled does not affect the amount you receive each month as may occur with workers’ compensation benefits that consider the extent of the disabling condition. Earnings may have been incorrectly excluded as not being “covered earnings.” A disability attorney can request a review and recalculation of the monthly benefit payment in the event an error was made.
Qualifying for SSI while receiving SSD
Depending upon your financial circumstances, you may qualify to receive benefits from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and SSD at the same time. There are, however, income and financial resource limitations you must meet to qualify for SSI. For instance, a person applying for SSI cannot have more than $2,000 in cash or other assets. There are, however, exceptions for a vehicle used for personal transportation and the value of the home a person owns and uses as a primary residence.
If you qualify for concurrent benefits through SSI and SSD, you may see a slight increase in the total monthly Social Security disability payments. The reason why it is only a slight increase is that the maximum amount you would be entitled to receive through SSI is reduced by a portion of the SSD payment.
SSI considers your income when determining eligibility and the amount of your benefits. SSD payments count as unearned income, but there is a $20 a month exclusion allowed by SSI. As a result, if you receive $250 a month from SSD, $230 of it would count against and reduce the SSI benefit you would otherwise be entitled to receive.
Working while receiving SSD
Working while collecting disability benefits is an option, but you need to get advice from a disability attorney to avoid jeopardizing your eligibility for SSD. Payments through SSD stop when the medical condition causing your disability improves. Engaging in substantial gainful activity is one method used by the SSA to determine if you are disabled and eligible for SSD.
The amount earned each month from employment cannot exceed $1,310 if your disability is due to a medical condition other than blindness. A person who is blind may earn up to $2,190 before being deemed to be engaging in substantial gainful activity. These are the monthly earnings for 2021, but they change each year.
One method of returning to work without jeopardizing your benefits is through a trial work period. The SSA allows you to return to work for at least nine months while continuing to receive your SSD benefits each month no matter how much you earn at the job as long as you notify SSA that you are working.
You may work for someone or be self-employed. The nine months do not have to be consecutive, but they must be completed within 60 months. At the end of the nine months, you continue to work and have monthly earnings for an additional 36 months. However, if your monthly earnings during the extended period exceed the substantial gainful activity levels, your benefits would stop.
There is an expedited procedure available to restart the SSD payments without having to submit a new application and go through the medical review process. Keep in mind that different work rules apply if you receive benefits through SSI.
Talk to an experienced disability attorney!
A disability attorney from the Law Office of Daniel Berger can offer advice and options for increasing Social Security disability payments and work rules for SSI and SSD. Call 718-691-7475 today or visit our website to schedule a free consultation.