Individuals who collect SSDI benefits can continue to collect these benefits even after they have returned to work. While SSDI benefits can provide long-term income to help disabled workers recover, the benefits are not guaranteed to be permanent and the individual may need to return following a review of their disability status. Because of this, the Social Security Administration has initiated a 3-step program to help ease the transition for workers returning to the workforce.

The 3-Step Process of Returning to Work

The first step of the process is referred to as the Trial Work Period. The trial period is nine months in duration and individuals are allowed to continue receiving their full SSDI benefit no matter how much income they earn during this period.

The second step of the process commences at the end of the trial period. Referred to as the 3-year Extended Period of Eligibility, or EPE. During this period, individuals can continue to receive benefits if their earned income is less than the maximum considered Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) which for 2017 is set at $1,170 per month.

The third and final step of the process is the 5-year Expedited Reinstatement Period, or ERP. This is a safety net that allows individuals to continue working with the full-knowledge that if their income falls below the SGA set for that year, they can automatically receive the full SSDI benefit they received before. During the ERP, individuals are not required to reapply for benefits which mean there will be no delay in processing the request.

Resources That Give Workers a Leg Up

The Social Security Administration also makes it possible for workers to take advantage of educational programs and other resources to help them return to work. These employment supports can help workers save money, obtain an education, purchase adaptive aids such as wheelchairs, etc. These programs can help workers achieve their goal of returning to work either part-time or full-time following a disabling injury without having a negative impact on their overall disability payments or the amount of income they can earn.

Processing the Paperwork

There are a number of rules and restrictions that individuals must adhere to throughout the three steps of the return to work process. Thus, it is crucial to discuss these with a Social Security lawyer in Chicago before filing an application. Doing so can help ensure compliance with the program and the continuation of benefits.