If you are a disabled worker, a San Diego Social Security disability attorney will help you apply for the Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits you are entitled to, and if your application is denied, that attorney will appeal the denial and fight aggressively for the benefits you need.

If you receive SSD benefits in the San Diego area, you can’t make extra money and get paid in cash “under the table.” If you are found out, you may have to pay your benefits back to the Social Security Administration (SSA), and it is possible that you could be prosecuted for fraud.

You are allowed to work and to earn a certain amount of income while you receive Social Security Disability benefits, and the SSA even sponsors a program that lets you earn additional income while you receive disability benefits. If you will keep reading, you’ll learn the details.

What Can You Earn While Receiving SSD Benefits?

Generally speaking, one of the clearest signs that someone is disabled is that person’s inability to perform work. With only several exceptions, Social Security Disability recipients may not engage in what the SSA considers “substantial gainful activity” while they receive SSD benefits.

As of 2022, the Social Security Administration defines “substantial gainful activity” as earning more than $1,350 a month (or earning more than $2,260 a month if you are blind).

Although the SSA doesn’t place a limit on your unearned income or assets – interest income, dividends, and pensions, for example – it does restrict what you can earn by working, because if you can earn substantial gainful income by working, you are no longer considered disabled.

What is the Trial Work Period?

Many SSD recipients may want to go back to work when their conditions improve, but they may be unable to keep the job and do not want to lose Social Security Disability benefits. For these disabled workers, the SSA provides a narrow exception to the rules called a “trial work period.”

For nine months, SSD recipients may assess their ability to work while they receive full Social Security Disability benefits without regard to the amount of income they earn. As of 2022, the Social Security Administration considers a month you earn over $970 to be a trial work month.

What is the Extended Period of Eligibility?

After the nine-month trial work period, for the next three years you may receive Social Security Disability benefits for any month that your earnings fall below the substantial gainful income threshold. This three-year window is called your “extended period of eligibility.”

If you earn below $1,350 in any single month during your extended period of eligibility, you will receive Social Security Disability benefits for that month. Earning above $1,350 in a single month means that you will not receive any Social Security Disability benefits for that month.

What is Expedited Reinstatement?

If your SSD benefit payments are stopped because you are earning too much income, the Social Security Administration provides you with a five-year period when your benefits may once again be paid if you lose your job because of your disability.

During this five-year “expedited reinstatement period,” you will not be required to file a new application or “start over” if you once again need to receive your Social Security Disability benefits.

What Can Happen if You Don’t Report Income?

Do not try working “under the table” while you receive Social Security Disability benefits. If the SSA finds that you’re earning income that you are not reporting while you are receiving benefits, you may be ordered to repay benefits you collected while you were working “under the table.”

You may also be fined, and you might even forfeit your right to future benefits. Not reporting income that you earn has other potential negative consequences for SSD benefit recipients. Some have been prosecuted and convicted in federal court of fraud and the theft of public funds.

What is the Ticket to Work Program?

The “Ticket to Work” program sponsored by the Social Security Administration allows you to earn additional income while you are receiving SSD benefits. The Ticket to Work program also provides free vocational rehabilitation, job training, job referrals, and other employment support.

Ticket to Work is voluntary for disabled and blind adults who are receiving Social Security Disability benefits. The program matches disabled workers with appropriate employment and services, and it exempts participants from ongoing disability reviews. Ticket to Work also:

  1.  offers SSD benefit recipients expanded support services and employment opportunities
  2.  boosts the independence and self-sufficiency of SSD benefit recipients
  3.  reduces or eliminates dependency on SSD benefit payments

Qualified SSD benefit recipients participate in Ticket to Work by signing up with an approved Ticket to Work service provider or a state Vocational Rehabilitation agency. Ticket to Work lets participants land a new job without the immediate loss of Social Security Disability benefits.

Are You Receiving Benefits? Should You Receive Benefits?

The SSD program is a vital safety net for disabled workers in this country. By making payroll tax contributions, more than 150 million workers are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits when and if they are disabled and cannot work. Over eight million receive benefits as of 2022.

To receive disability benefits, your disability must prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity for at least a year. The benefit amount that you may eventually receive will depend on what you earned before you were disabled.

Social Security’s rejection or approval of an applicant for disability benefits is made after considering the applicant’s work history, age, and condition.

When Should You Reach Out to a Disability Attorney?

In the San Diego area, if you need to receive SSD benefits, before you take any other step, schedule a consultation with a San Diego Social Security disability lawyer who has substantial experience with SSD cases and who knows what will be required for you to succeed.

Your San Diego Social Security disability attorney can review your application for benefits to ensure that it is accurate and complete. If your SSD benefits are denied, your attorney will appeal that decision immediately and fight aggressively for the SSD benefits you need.

Your San Diego Social Security disability lawyer will address your concerns about the SSD program and any additional income you may earn, help you obtain benefits, and help you stay in compliance with the SSA’s rules and regulations for SSD benefit recipients.