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Ways to explore working without jeopardizing disability benefits

For purposes of Social Security disability insurance benefits, a total disability is defined as a condition that prevents an individual from earning more than the monthly earning limit. In 2013, that amount was $1,040 per month. 

Despite those clear guidelines from the Social Security Administration, an applicant may still have to answer questions from a disability examiner about part-time work. As a disability benefits attorney knows, many disabilities involving chronic pain or illness may prevent full-time work, or the performance of job duties on a regular and sustained basis.  

Notably, a recent story about a woman’s eligibility for temporary total disability benefits involved this same issue. After qualifying for TTD benefits, the woman -- a former nurse who suffered a severe shoulder and back injury -- turned her attention to a flower shop that she had opened with her daughters before suffering her on-the-job back and shoulder injury.

The woman stopped by the shop a few days each week, helping with small tasks like answering the phones. However, that part-time work nearly jeopardized the woman’s TTD benefits. Her employer argued that her flower shop activities constituted a return to work. Fortunately, a court affirmed that the woman’s periodic assistance at the shop did not change her disability status until her doctor once again cleared her for work.

An attorney that focuses on disability benefits knows that disability examiners may ask hard questions about any work duties that an individual is still capable of performing, in spite of the limitations presented by a physical or mental impairment. Yet part-time work is not an automatic disqualification for SSDI payments. In fact, the SSA has an official program that allows SSDI recipients to explore returning to work without jeopardizing their benefits.

Source: Business Insurance, “Flower shop work doesn't preclude disability benefits for Illinois nurse,” Stephanie Goldberg, July 1, 2014

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