social security disability
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By Royce Nunley

SSD is short for Social Security Disability. It is part of the U.S. Social Security federal program that gives extra money each month to people who qualify. You qualify for SSD if you have a “total” disability, and you have: 1) Worked long enough and recently enough, and 2) Paid enough in social security taxes. The program is complex and has various rules and requirements. In order to determine if you are eligible for SSD benefits if you are still employed, you need to know the fundamental rules.

General Rules Related To SSD Benefits

Eligibility Criteria

  • Disability Definition: To qualify for SSD benefits, you must have a disability that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a specific definition of disability that is based on your ability to work. This is a strict definition, and short-term or partial disability conditions do not qualify.
  • Work Credits: Typically, you must have earned a certain number of work credits to be eligible. These credits are based on your work history and the amount of Social Security taxes you have paid.

Medical Criteria

The SSA has a “Listing of Impairments” which describes medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that a person is disabled. If your condition is not on the list, the SSA will assess whether it is severe enough to qualify.

Waiting Period

There is a five-month waiting period after the onset of disability before you can receive benefits.

Medical Evidence

You must provide medical evidence to support your claim of disability. The SSA may also require you to undergo a consultative examination.

Periodic Reviews

Once awarded benefits, the SSA will periodically review your condition to ensure you are still disabled. This is known as a Continuing Disability Review (CDR).

Benefits for Dependents

Certain family members, like children or a spouse, might also qualify for benefits based on your disability record.

Specific Rules and Regulations Related To SSD Benefits While Employed

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) sets a threshold for what they consider to be “substantial gainful activity.” If you are earning more than this monthly SGA amount, you generally will not qualify for disability benefits. In 2023, most SSDI recipients can earn up to $1,470 a month from work without risk to their benefits, up from $1,350 the previous year. The cap is higher for beneficiaries who are blind. Blind individuals can make up to $2,460 a month, without risk to their benefits.  This is a $200 increase from 2022.These amounts are subject to change annually.

Trial Work Period (TWP)

If you start or go back to work while receiving SSD benefits, you can have a “trial work period” of up to nine months within a rolling 60-month period. During this time, you can earn any amount without affecting your SSD benefits. The TWP allows beneficiaries to test their ability to work.

Extended Period of Eligibility

After the TWP, there’s a 36-month “extended period of eligibility.” During this time, if your earnings are below the SGA, you can still receive SSD benefits. However, if you earn above the SGA for any month during this period, you will not receive benefits for that month.

Expedited Reinstatement

If your benefits cease because of work, but within five years you find you are unable to continue working because of your disability, you might be eligible for “expedited reinstatement.” This means that you can start receiving benefits again without having to go through the entire application process. 

Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE)

If you have out-of-pocket costs related to your disability that you pay for in order to work (for example, certain medical devices, medications, or transportation), those might be considered IRWE. The SSA could deduct these costs from your earnings when determining if you are involved in SGA.

It is worth noting that the rules and regulations surrounding SSD benefits are complex. If you are considering working while receiving benefits, or if you are trying to determine your eligibility, it might be a good idea to speak with an experienced disability attorney familiar with social security law. The Nunley Law Group PLLC can explain the specific rules and procedures in the Michigan area and help you make your way through the SSD process.

About the Author
Royce Nunley practices in the areas of Family Law, Criminal Law, Social Security, and Personal Injury law. Royce graduated Cum Laude from Wayne State University with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. He continued his education at Wayne Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate Cum Laude. Named to Superlawyer’s “rising stars” in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 for his work in Family Law.