Q & A
Ask Rusty – Working while collecting Social Security disability
Dear Rusty: My husband started getting Social Security disability in 2016 at the age of 61; he is now 63. Did it automatically switch over to regular Social Security? Also, he is feeling bored and would like to have a little job. Is he allowed to work just so many hours per week, or does it go by how much you make per month? Is it just reported at tax time next year? Signed: Helpful Wife
Dear Helpful: Your husband’s SS disability (SSDI) will automatically switch to his retirement benefits when he reaches his full retirement age (66 years and 2 months if he was born in 1955). Regarding his working while still collecting SSDI benefits, Social Security encourages those on disability to attempt to return to the workforce, so your husband should consider enrolling in the Social Security “Ticket to Work” program, which will provide him the chance to test his ability to work for at least nine “trial work months” during a 60-month time frame. During this trial work period he’ll receive his full SSDI benefit regardless of how much he earns. Briefly, any month he earns more than $850 (for 2018) counts as a trial work month (if he earns less than that it doesn’t count as a trial work month). After he has reached nine trial work months, he can still receive his SSDI benefits for another 36 months, except that he won’t receive benefits for any month that his earnings exceed what Social Security considers “substantial gainful activity”, or “SGA”, which for 2018 is $1180. If his benefits stop because his earnings regularly exceed “SGA”, and within 5 years he is once again unable to work due to his disability, his disability benefits can be restarted (without having to re-apply). You can get full details about Working While on Disability and the Ticket to Work program by going to this link: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf. The Ticket to Work program should allow your husband to work and test his physical limits without having a negative impact to his Social Security disability benefits. As for reporting his earnings, your husband must notify Social Security when he starts to work and must, as well, report his monthly earnings to Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. Once he has entered the Ticket to Work program, he should also report to Social Security if he stops working. And, of course, once his disability benefits convert to regular retirement benefits at his full retirement age, there is no restriction on how much he can earn.