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How does the SSA decide you can return to work after disability?

| May 1, 2020 | Social Security Disability

When you qualify for benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance, the Social Security Administration will periodically review your case. Sometimes, they decide SSDI recipients are ready to return to work.

Learn more about the criteria the SSA uses to make these determinations.

Review frequency

Currently, the SSA reviews disability cases every two years, or anytime the agency learns a person has seen significant medical improvement. Returning to part-time work does not necessarily mean the SSA will review your case. Individuals in the Ticket to Work program do not receive case review. This free, voluntary program allows you to access support services, vocational programs and employment counseling to facilitate the return to work.

Criteria for work readiness

The agency looks for positive changes in your abilities and medical condition, as well as the ability to return to substantial gainful activity. The SSA requests updated copies of your medical records, including treatments, medications, surgeries and tests related to your disabling condition. The claims examiner decides whether your condition has seen substantial improvement since your last review.

If you are able to return to work, you can request a trial period. This means you can retain benefits for up to nine months while you test your ability to work effectively in your old role or a new type of employment. In 2020, you can earn up to $910 per month without losing SSDI payments.

What happens next

When the SSA finds that an individual can return to work, they provide notice the same month. However, the person still receives benefits for a grace period, which includes the notification month and the two months to follow.

Some individuals who return to work with a disability may qualify for special conditions. This means you may benefit from a workplace support such as a mentor or job coach. You may be eligible for extended breaks, a lighter workload, or increased supervision and guidance.

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