The SSDI program provides monthly cash benefits to people with disabilities who have worked and paid in a certain amount of Social Security/FICA tax.
People who become disabled prior to age 22 may also be able to receive disability insurance benefits if they have a parent who dies, retires or becomes disabled. This is often referred to as Retirement, Survivors, Disability Insurance (RSDI). SSDI and RSDI have basically the same rules for people with disabilities who work.
People on SSDI/RSDI become eligible for Medicare health coverage 24 months after they begin receiving cash benefits. Since Medicare does not cover long-term care services, such as personal care assistance, many people on SSDI benefits also need Medical Assistance (MA). There is a specific MA program available to people with disabilities who are working. It is called Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities or MA-EPD.
When applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or any other program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSA will determine which programs, if any, you qualify for. If you are not eligible for SSDI, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or retirement benefits. See Social Security’s definition of disability here.
SSA will consider the extent of your disability, your previous work history, your current earnings and your age when determining which benefits are appropriate for you. To apply, call SSA at 1-800-772-1213, or go to the Social Security website.
What should I know about SSDI and going to work?
Resources: Work incentives for people on SSDI flyer
Trial Work Period (TWP)
SSDI work incentive only. The Trial Work Period (TWP) is a 9-month period, which allows you to test your ability to work. When in your TWP, you can earn significant income and continue to receive an SSDI payment. This is especially helpful for people who want to return to work full time, but are not sure if they can.
Trial Work Period features
Additional information about TWP
Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)
SSDI work incentive only. The Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) begins the month after your Trial Work Period (TWP) ends and lasts for 36 consecutive months.
During your EPE, you will continue to receive an SSDI payment in each month your earnings are below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level. In 2020, SGA is $1,260 per month ($2,110 per month for people receiving benefits based on blindness). You are not entitled to an SSDI payment in months when you earn more than the SGA limit, unless you can use work incentives. The change in your payment is often referred to as “all or nothing”. SSDI does not reduce your payment to a partial payment. You either receive the whole payment, or no payment for that month. You are eligible for an SSDI payment in any of the following months your earnings drop below SGA again, during the EPE.
Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) features:
Additional information about EPE:
A Subsidy is a Work Incentive that is sometimes used by individuals who receive SSDI.The value of the subsidy is deducted from your countable earnings when determining if you have earned above the Substantial Gainful Activity level (SGA, $1,260 per month in 2020, or $2,110 if blind).
If your earnings are approaching the SGA limits ($1,260 per month in 2020, or $2,110 if blind), contact the Goodwill-Easter Seals Work Incentives Connection to see if subsidy or other work incentives might apply to your situation.
Examples of subsidy include:
Any subsidy you claim must be approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can have your employer or job coach complete the Work Incentives Connection's Subsidy Identification Tool below. They can either complete it online and print it out, or print it out first and complete it by hand. Then, submit it to your SSA representative who will determine the amount of subsidy you receive.
Subsidy Identification Tool
If your earnings are approaching the SGA limits ($1,220 per month in 2019, or $2,040 if blind), contact the Goodwill-Easter Seals Work Incentives Connection to see if subsidy or other work incentives might apply to your situation.
Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs)
Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE) is a work incentive available to individuals who receive SSDI and/or SSI. If you receive SSDI, IRWEs are used only if you have completed your Trial Work Period and are earning more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level, which is $1,260 per month in 2020 ($2,110 for those receiving benefits based on blindness).
An IRWE expense must be:
Possible IRWE expenses:
How can an IRWE help me?
What else do I need to know?
IRWE rules require that specific criteria be met and specific documentation be kept. IRWEs also need to be approved by your local Social Security office before they can be considered to be in effect.
If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and have a specific vocational goal, PASS may help you reach it. PASS allows you to save money for school, buying a modified vehicle, paying for new business start-up costs or other expenses related to becoming self-sufficient. Using a PASS allows you to set aside income from employment and/or your SSDI check to save for these special expenses, while receiving an SSI check to pay for your daily living expenses.
The funds you are using for your PASS must be kept separate from other money, and you must keep records of your PASS expenses. Any changes in the amount of money put into your PASS account must be approved by the Social Security Administration.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a group of staff members,called the PASS Cadre, who can help you understand all the aspects of a PASS. The PASS Cadre coordinates PASS activities from start to finish, and can help you in preparing your PASS application.
Your request for a PASS must be in writing and approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA). PASS application form: Social Security Administration PASS application form. See the PASS Fact Sheet for more details.
After the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)
If your earnings are over SGA and work incentives do not apply after your 36 month EPE, your SSDI payment will stop. If your earnings later drop below SGA you may be able to have your SSDI payment restarted. Social Security offers these two options:
Expedited Reinstatement (EXR)
Expedited Reinstatement (EXR) provides a safety net for individuals who work off their benefits. Expedited Reinstatement allows people whose Social Security benefits ended due to earnings over SGA to have those benefits restarted without having to file a new application. Detailed information about EXR can be found here.