Getting Past the Myths

The Basics

You may have heard many myths about how working will affect your disability benefits and health care coverage. You may be afraid that you will lose your benefits if you work. You may be concerned about how to get your benefits back if you stop working or need to work fewer hours because of your disability. We want to give you the facts about those myths so you will feel comfortable and safe beginning, or returning to, work, and so you won’t worry about losing your benefits before you are ready.

The Social Security Administration has built many safeguards into their benefits programs that will let you begin working without losing your benefits. These safeguards are ways to keep your cash benefits and health insurance benefits, if you still need them, when you go to work or change the number of hours that you work.

Seven Myths About Work and Benefits
  • Myth #1: I can’t work because of my disability.
  • Myth #2: I will lose my SSI/SSDI checks when I start to work.
  • Myth #3: If I work, I will lose my health care benefits.
  • Myth #4: If I start working, Social Security will decide I’m not disabled anymore.
  • Myth #5: There are no resources that can help me find and keep a job.
  • Myth #6: I can’t afford the extra costs of starting to work.
  • Myth #7: I don’t need my benefits as long as I have a job, but if I have to stop working I won’t be able to get my benefits back.

Are You on SSI or SSDI? Why You Need to Know the Difference

People often get confused about the difference between SSI and SSDI—this is very common. It is important for you to know which program(s) you are on. This will help you understand which programs mentioned below will be able to help you. If you don’t know which program(s) you are on, see if these brief explanations will help you figure it out.

If you’re still not sure, you may want to request something called a Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) from your Social Security office. A BPQY statement has information about which disability benefits you receive, including your cash benefits, health benefits, and work history. For more information on BPQY, click here.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

SSI is a ‘needs-based’ program. This means it is for low-income people with little or no income and assets. SSI pays up to $1,182.94 per month. You may know if you are on SSI if you have had little or no paid work history. Another sign is that you get your payment on the first of every month. If you are enrolled in the 1619(b) program, you are on SSI. People on SSI have a limit of $2,000 in assets. Click here for more information on SSI.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)

SSDI is also called "SSD" or ‘disability’ or ‘disability insurance benefit’. SSDI is like an insurance policy. When you work, a tax is deducted from your check, called FICA, which is how you pay into this insurance policy. If you become disabled, you can get cash benefits from SSDI. So, to be eligible for SSDI you must have worked in the past and paid FICA taxes. The cash benefit can be anywhere from $1 per month to more than $2,000 per month, depending on how long you worked and paid into this system. There are no unearned income or resource limit for SSDI. SSDI benefits are not paid on the first of the month. These benefits are paid on the third of the month or on the second, third or fourth Wednesday of the month. For more information on SSDI, click here.

The possibility of work for people with disabilities is more of a reality than ever before. Many people with disabilities have meaningful jobs that they enjoy and are successful at doing. With the right kind of training, preparation, and workplace accommodations, you can have a successful career. Not only will work let you earn your own money, it will also give you independence from public benefits. You will likely meet new people and make new friends at your job. You will have the opportunity to make choices about the type of job you want to do and where you want to work.

Here are some common myths about working, with explanations of how they can be misleading and often discouraging for people with disabilities who want to work. For more information on how working will affect your benefits, please talk to a benefits planner.

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