Social Security pays disability benefits to people who meet work history and eligibility requirements. Work history requires payment into the system, with taxes and qualifying employment counted by quarters or credits. A person must meet the definition of disability. Social Security disability requires that the person be unable to participate in substantial gainful activity or work in a paying job. Substantial gainful activity in 2011 means earning more than $1,000 a month, or $1,640 if you are blind. Social Security has programs to help disabled workers return to work, such as Ticket to Work, along with vocational rehabilitation, trial work periods and extended benefits.
Ticket to Work
Ticket to Work provides a ticket for the disabled worker to contact the local employment network for vocational rehabilitation or employment. The Ticket to Work program increases the chances of the disabled worker obtaining and retaining a job, since organizations and governmental agencies work with Social Security in the employment of the disabled worker. Social Security makes this program available in all 50 states and 10 territories. If you are in this program and your disabling condition improves, you may continue to receive disability benefits until you complete the program or the program ends, unless Social Security determines that you are no longer benefiting from the program.
Trial Work Period
Social Security disability allows nine months of trial work. These are months in which you earn more than $720 (2011 figure) in a trial work period. Your disability benefits continue, although you earn income that may exceed $1,000. This nine-month period may occur over a period of five years. Social Security does not require consecutive months, but you must report your income each month.
Extended Period of Eligibility
You have 36 months after the trial work period has ended to fall back on Social Security disability, if necessary. In the months that you do not earn $1,000, you may contact Social Security and receive a disability benefit for that month. If you lose your job, you may immediately go back on Social Security disability during this time. Social Security deducts work-related qualifying expenses from your income before determining the months in which you earn in excess of $1,000. A work-related expense may include a wheelchair for work or special transportation. You must pay for these expenses to take the deduction.
Extended Medicare Coverage
Once you reach 24 months of Social Security disability, you qualify for free Medicare Part A benefits. Your Medicare benefits continue for seven years and nine months after your trial work period ends. If you paid for Part B and Part D Medicare benefits, you may continue receiving coverage with payment. If you continue being disabled, you may purchase Medicare insurance coverage after this extension expires, even if you are not the eligible age of 65.