Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How does working affect your Social Security disability benefits?

How does working affect your Social Security disability benefits?

At Tree Law Office, we are often asked by our clients, “What will happen to my benefits if I try to work again?” Before answering that, we should state that we always encourage all of our clients to work as much as possible. There are a couple of reasons for this. People tend to feel better about themselves when they are working. Also, from a purely economic perspective, most people will make more money by working than they may be entitled to from Social Security disability benefits alone.

The remainder of this article is intended for those people who have already been approved for and are or were receiving disability benefits and are thinking about trying to go back to work. There are other rules applicable to people who are still waiting to be approved.

Disabled People Receiving Title II = Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) = SSDI*

Trial Work Period (TWP)

During a rolling five year period after disability is established, you are entitled to work nine TWP months. A TWP month is any calendar month during which earnings exceed $700 per month (for 2009). During the TWP, you can work and earn any amount of money, and you will still be entitled to receive your full DIB benefit amount. After nine months, which do not have to be consecutive, benefits will end. The TWP starts the first month you are eligible for SSDI benefits or the month in which you filed for benefits, whichever is later.

Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

After the nine TWP months have been exceeded, you are entitled to a 36 month EPE. During this EPE, if earnings fall below Substantial Gainful Activity [SGA ($980 in 2009)] and you continue to have a disabling impairment, then benefits can be restarted automatically without a new application. If you are eligible for benefits on the 37th month, then you will continue to be eligible for benefits until you work a month at SGA levels or medically recover.

Disabled People Receiving Title XVI = SSI

Under SSI rules, any income that you have will likely reduce your SSI payment. In addition, your resources (money or the things you own) cannot be worth more than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 per couple.

The amount of your SSI payments is based on how much other income you have. When your other income goes up, your SSI payments usually go down. So when you earn more than the SSI limit, your payments will stop for those months. But your payments will automatically start again for any month your income drops to less than the SSI limits as long as you are still disabled. Just tell your local Social Security office if your earnings are reduced or if you stop working.

If your only income besides SSI is the money you make from your job, then SSA does not count the first $85 of your monthly earnings. They deduct 50 cents of every dollar you earn after the $85 deduction from your SSI payments.

Here is an example: You work and earn $1,000 in a month. You receive no other income besides your earnings and your SSI. Social Security would not count the first $85 of your monthly earnings, so you would have $915 of countable income for that month. Dividing by 2 would give you $457.50. $457.50 is the amount that would be deducted from your SSI check for that month.

Disabled People No Longer Receiving DIB or SSI

Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits

If your benefits ended because you worked and had earnings, you can request to have benefits started again without having to complete a new application. You can request that benefits start again if you:

· Stopped receiving SSDI or SSI benefits because of earnings from work;

· Are not performing SGA in the month client requests reinstatement;

· Are unable to work or perform SGA because of medical condition;

· Have an impairment(s) that is the same as, or related to, the impairment(s) that allowed client to get benefits earlier; and

· Request reinstatement within 5 years from the month SSA terminated entitlement or eligibility.

While SSA determines whether you can get benefits again, SSA can give you provisional (temporary) benefits for up to 6 months. These benefits include payments and Medicare/Medicaid coverage. If SSA denies your request, they will not ask for repayment of the provisional benefits unless you knew or should have known that you did not qualify for reinstatement.

After request for expedited reinstatement has been approved, once benefits have been payable for 24 months, which do not have to be consecutive, you get a new TWP and new EPE.

We hope that this article has answered your questions about returning to work. If you need additional information or a consultation, please contact our office.

[*] These rules can be found in SSA Publication No. 05-10095 “Working While Disabled – How We Can Help,” in The Red Book (available online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/redbook), and in the applicable Social Security regulations at 20 CFR 404.1592 et.seq.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Social Security Recipients to receive One-Time Check for $250

President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which provides for a one-time payment of $250 to individuals who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Benefits. Your check should arrive by June 4, 2009. No action is required for you to get this one-time payment. Social Security has asked us to request that you not call Social Security about this $250 check unless you have not received it by June 4, 2009.

Minor children who receive auxiliary benefits from a deceased or disabled parent are not eligible for this one-time $250 payment according to information given out by the Social Security Administration.

Tree Law Sets Legal Precedence in Social Security Disability Law

Not many lawyers have the opportunity to set new Social Security law in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tree Law is one of the few law firms in Washington State that has set new law to assist claimants in being awarded Social Security Disability Benefits.

Loyd Gatliff applied for social security benefits and was denied those benefits twice before he had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Mr. Tree represented Loyd Gatliff at his Social Security Disability Hearing. At the hearing Mr. Tree obtained evidence that due to Mr. Gatliff’s impairments he could only hold a job for a couple months before he would be fired as a result of his impairments. The Social Security ALJ held that Mr. Gatliff could piece together a series of jobs each lasting approximately two to three months and denied Mr. Gatliff’s claim. An appeal to the Social Security Administration Appeals Council in Arlington, Virginia was denied.

Another appeal was made to the Federal District Court where the Federal Judge declared there was no law in the ninth circuit on the issue of whether a person who could only work a couple months should be found disabled. Absent such law he sided with the Social Security Administration and upheld the denial of benefits to Mr. Gatliff.

Mr. Tree appealed this denial to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California. The Ninth Circuit is the largest federal court in the United States and has jurisdiction over 9 western states in the United States. Appeals from the Ninth Circuit go directly to the US Supreme Court. Mr. Tree had to travel to present oral argument before three Judges from the ninth circuit.

The ninth circuit court of Appeals agreed with Mr. Tree’s argument and held that not only must a person be able to find a job but they must be able to hold it for a significant period of time. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals awarded Mr. Gatliff over five years of back benefits. Gatliff v. Social Security Administration 172 F. 3d. 690 (9th Cir. 1999) This case can be read at http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/172/172.F3d.690.97-36161.html.

As a result new law was established in the Ninth Circuit. Now throughout the 9th circuit whenever a claimant is only able to hold a job for a few months before getting fired they should receive benefits based on the precedent setting case of Gatliff v. Social Security.

Tree Law Office Announces Opening of Office in Tri-Cities

Due to hard work and successful results for its Social Security Disability clients Tree Law Office has experienced a large growth in Benton, Franklin, and Walla Walla counties. In order to better serve these clients Tree Law has opened a new office in Kennewick. Our current and future clients in these counties will be serviced at our new office.

Our new address is 1030 N Center Parkway, Kennewick, WA 99336. You may call us in Kennewick at 509 737-1234 or toll free 1-800-704-3699. We do not advertise on TV, radio or newspapers. We devote our full attention to representing the disabled in their claims for Social Security Benefits. We rely on referrals from satisfied clients to grow our practice. We appreciate the many thousands of clients we have assisted in obtaining their Social Security Benefits and plan on continuing this same type of representations for our new clients throughout Central Washington.