Can I Get Temporary Or Short-Term Social Security Disability?

Most people who apply for social security disability benefits know that they will never be able to return to work. However, many people with medical impairments want to know if the can apply for benefits if they are only going to be off work for a few months, or if they are planning to go back to work at some point in the future.

Unlike many other benefits programs, such as workers’ compensation or private disability plans, the Social Security Administration does not offer short term or temporary benefits. To be entitled to social security disability, a person must be disabled for at least 12 consecutive months. Disability is defined as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medical impairment or combination of medical impairments (in layman’s terms, inability to work any job, on full time basis, due to medical conditions).

As the above implies, a person can apply for a “closed period” of benefits if they do return to work, if they are disabled for at least 12 months or more. For example, take a person who is in a car accident, and is unable to perform any kind or work due to injuries suffered in that accident. They apply for disability, but, after 12 months (or more), they recover and can return to work (again, any work). That person could get a closed period benefits for the 12 months (or more) that they were unable to work.

Please note that not all work done after someone alleges disability precludes entitlement to benefits. Only work that is “substantial” (i.e., earning more than $1220/month, gross in 2019) will preclude entitlement to benefits. Furthermore, if a person claiming to disabled does work that is substantial but has to quit after 6 months or less due to their conditions, this may be considered an “unsuccessful work attempt,” and not considered substantial work. Lastly, even if a person engages in substantial work, it may not preclude benefits if they have “income related work expenses.” These are out-of-pocket costs for items related to a person’s medical conditions that enable them to work (for example, medical goods such as equipment, supplies, or medicines, and services such as special transportation to and from work or home care to help get ready for work).

The bottom line is, social security requires you to be unable to work any job full time for 12 consecutive months or more. However, due to the various exceptions to work rules, which can be complicated, hiring an attorney to get advice specific to your circumstances is often your best option.

Written by Scott Bowers

Scott earned his J.D., cum laude, from Capital University Law School and focuses his practice on Social Security Disability law.

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Can I Work While I Receive Social Security Disability?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can work and still receive disability benefits. As you might imagine, however, there are several limitations and caveats. The first major thing to consider is what type of benefits are you receiving, i.e., disability insurance benefits (“DIB” or “SSDI”) or supplemental security income (“SSI”). Let’s start with the first.

If you are receiving SSDI benefits (disability paid to those who have worked enough to be eligible), you can earn up to $880 per month in 2019 (that’s gross, or before taxes, insurance or any other deductions). If you earn more than $880 in a month, that counts as a “Trial Work Month.” There is no limit to how much you can earn during a trial work month. You get 9 trial work months in the 60 months (5 years) after you are found disabled. These do not have to be consecutive (meaning you could earn over $880 one month, then under for 1 or more months, then over again, and that counts as 2 months). Once you have used your 9 months, you have 36 months (3 years) of an “Extended Period of Eligibility.” During these 36 months, you can still receive benefits, if your earnings for that month are not “substantial” (defined as not over $1,220 per month, gross). There are exceptions/modifications to the substantial earnings rule, such as if your work is done under special conditions (i.e., you receive special assistance, or are given extra breaks, etc.). Another exception is if you have “income related work expenses (i.e., you have to pay out of pocket expenses to get to work, for things like special transportation, etc.).

If you are receiving SSI benefits (disability paid to those with limited income and resources), social security will reduce your benefits by your earnings. They will not count the first $85 you earn in the month, but will then reduce your benefits by 50 cents for every dollar you earn. For example, if you earn $500 in a month, they don’t count the first $85, which leaves $415. They then reduce your monthly benefits by half of that, or $207.50. Moreover, if your income, when added to any other resources, exceeds Social Security’s limits, your benefits stop altogether. The resource limits vary from state to state, but generally you cannot have more than $2,000 if you are single, or $3,000 if you are married (they do not count 1 car and they do not count your residence, i.e., house, apartment, trailer as a resource).

Whatever the case, be sure to always contact social security and inform them of the start, end or change related to any work you do.

by Scott Bowers

Written by Scott Bowers

Scott earned his J.D., cum laude, from Capital University Law School and focuses his practice on Social Security Disability law.

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Does Social Security Consider Anything Other Than My Medical Conditions

In order to receive Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must find that you are unable to do a full time job due to your medical conditions. The general rule is that they cannot consider whether someone will hire you, or whether you can find a job. However, because the SSA recognizes that older workers may have more trouble adapting to new types of employment, it will consider factors other than just your medical conditions when you reach a certain age.

The SSA groups disability claimants into 4 basic categories:

  1. Younger individuals (18 through 49)
  2. Closely approaching advanced age (50 to 54)
  3. Advanced age (55 and over), and
  4. Closely approaching retirement age (60 and over)

 

If you are in the first age group, the SSA will not consider you disabled if you are capable of ANY kind of work, including sedentary, unskilled work (i.e., simple jobs that do not require lifting over 10 pounds, or standing/walking for prolonged periods of time). However, if you are in the closely approaching advanced age, you could still be found disabled even if you are able to do sedentary work. At this age category, the SSA decision-maker will look, with the help of a vocational expert (i.e., an expert on jobs and employment related matters), to see whether you have skills that could be used in sedentary work. These skills could come from your education (i.e., a college degree or vocational training), or your past work (i.e., whether you had the power to hire and fire employees, set schedules, or do bookkeeping). If you do have skills, you would be found not disabled. If you do not have skills, you would be found disabled. When you are in the next age categories, you can still be found disabled if you do not have skills that would transfer to light work, even if you are capable of that type of work (i.e., jobs that involve lifting up to 20 pounds, and standing/walking about half the day, and sitting the other half).

There are also other ways to prove that skills are not transferable, even if you do have them. One way is if you have a severe psychological condition that would prevent you from doing skilled work. Due to the complicated nature of these rules, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced disability attorney to help you navigate this complex system.

 

By Scott J. Bowers

Written by Scott Bowers

Scott earned his J.D., cum laude, from Capital University Law School and focuses his practice on Social Security Disability law.

View all author posts →