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For many disabled people, the Social Security Disability benefit (SSDI) can go a long way toward bridging the income gap caused by permanent disability. For others, SSDI might be all they need financially, yet their desire to continue working and contributing to society is as strong as before disability struck. Whatever position you find yourself in, there is good news: you can work while receiving. your SSDI benefit without endangering either your monthly payment or, as important, Medicare.

Work Incentive Program

Social Security's work incentive program allows you to continue receiving cash benefits for a time while you work. You will also be able to continue receiving Medicare. It's possible that your disability will make it necessary for you to change your line of work. Social Security has that covered, too, by offering help with education, training and rehabilitation to begin a new career.

Trial Work Period

You don't have to make a hasty decision. A trial work period allows you at least 9 months to see if you're able to return to work. You'll still receive full Social Security benefits during this period as long as you report your earnings, and as long as you remain disabled. In 2009, Social Security considers any month in which your total earnings are $700 or more a trial work month. The trial work period continues until you have worked 9 months within a 60-month period.

Extended Period of Eligibility

After your trial work period, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month your earnings are not substantial. In 2009, substantial earnings are considered to be $980 or more ($1,640 if you are blind). No new application or disability decision is needed for you to receive a Social Security disability benefit during this period.

Don't worry if you discover you're not able to work and earn a substantial income for the long term.You have a 5-year period to ask Social Security to immediately reinstate benefits. You will not have to file a new application, and you will continue receiving benefits while Social Security determines that you are still disabled.

If You Lose Your Job

If you lose your job and continue to be disabled, call Social Security immediately to update your situation and request that your benefits, including Medicare, be reinstated.

Vocational Rehabilitation Programs

If you feel you will still be able to work but need to find a different line of work, inquire about vocational rehabilitation programs in your area. If you have used such a program to obtain your first job, your records will likely be on file. This will make the process of training for a new job quicker and easier for you.

Your local Social Security office will be able to direct you to a vocational rehabilitation program in your area. Here, you have the opportunity to be retrained for work that will suit your current needs. Once again, you'll find yourself able to be a productive and contributing member of society, while you maintain an income level required to suit your financial needs.


Nancy Virginia Varian is a freelance writer in New Mexico. A widely published author of fantasy fiction for more than 25 years, her short stories have been published in "DragonLance Tales Vol. 2" and "The Year’s Best Fantastic Fiction vol 1." Her range of interests include gardening, disability issues, history, language and the internet.

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