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Social Security disability and its work incentives

Social Security disability benefits aim to give financial relief to those who are temporarily or permanently disabled. Since not all disabling conditions are permanent, the Social Security Administration hopes that some of the people on its disability roll will eventually return to work and therefore no longer need disability benefits. This is why the SSA conducts reevaluations of disabled individual's medical conditions. It is also why the SSA provides certain benefits to those who actively seek to return back to work.

In order to assist disabled individuals return to work, the SSA provides employment supports. Generally speaking, the SSA gives disabled individuals nine years to test their ability to work. That means that a disabled individual can receive their full benefits payment for the first year that they work. Additionally, disabled individuals can receive 36 months of re-entitlement, and their benefits can be resumed within a five-year period without having to go through the claims process again.

Each local Social Security Administration office has a work incentive liaison, who is tasked with helping disabled individuals identify incentives for returning to work. This can include training and educational opportunities, identification of new job opportunities, and even assessment of new tax exemptions that may apply if an individual returns to work. The list of incentives is quite lengthy, and disabled individuals should look them over to see if determine if they need or want to try to return to work.

It is important to note, though, that the choice to return to work may not ultimately be up to a disabled individual. If, during re-evaluation, the SSA determines that a disabled individual is able to work, then benefits may be suddenly stopped. Therefore, those who think they may be able to return to work may want to discuss their disability claim with an attorney who can help them better assess their ability to maintain their SSD benefits.

Source: Social Security Administration, "2016 Red Book," accessed on Jan. 15, 2017

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