Published on: August 26, 2020
If you’re reading this article, then hopefully you have been approved for Social Security benefits!
Being approved for SSDI or SSI means you can take a deep breath and relax knowing that all your hard work for the past several months (or longer!) has been not in vain. Now, you can receive the benefits that you can rely on to continue to live your life.
However, just because you have been approved for benefits doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan on what to do next. There are plenty of steps to take so that you can make the most of your Social Security benefits and live comfortably.
What Steps You Should Take Once You've Been Approved
You may think that once you have been approved that you’ll receive a check in the mailbox the next day. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Your first Social Security disability check will arrive in the sixth full month after the date the SSA says your disability began.
For example, if your disability began on August 5, 2019, your first benefit would be paid for the month of February 2020, the sixth full month of disability.
Once you start receiving checks, you may be wondering if there are any steps or conditions to consider that may affect your Social Security benefits.
Your Employment Status
Being approved for SSDI or SSI benefits doesn’t mean you cannot work again. If you wish to be employed, whether to make some side money or keep doing a job you love, you can continue to hold a job under certain circumstances. In fact, the SSA tries to encourage people to go back to work by offering certain incentives based on their benefits.
Typically, you can hold a job with your disability benefits as long as you’re receiving no more than the Substantial Gainful Activity threshold (which, 2020 was no more than $1,260/month).
Social Security benefits recipients are allowed a 9-month period to test their ability to work without any change in their benefit amount. In this period, you are able to continue receiving your benefits even if you’re making more than the amounts set by the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit.
After this 9-month trial period, you are immediately considered for an extended period of eligibility, which is an additional 36-month period where you will be eligible to receive benefits during any particular month in which your income falls below the $1,260/month amount.
However, if you continue to show your ability to work and make an income above the SGA threshold, your benefits will be discontinued. You will still be granted a five-year period, known as an expedited reinstatement, where you can have your benefits automatically reinstated without the need to apply again if you are forced to stop working due to your disability.
Working Programs for SSDI & SSI
The SSA supports Social Security recipients who would like to go back to work by offering several programs that provide incentives to make it easier for beneficiaries to go back to the workforce and keep their benefits.
Plan to Achieve Self-Support(PASS)
The SSA’s PASS program allows you to save part of your income to be used to pay for a work-related goal. This program helps Social Security recipients find employment that helps to reduce or eliminate their benefits.
Blind Work Expenses (BWE)
This program is for people with blindness who receive SSDI or SSI. Eligible beneficiaries can receive Blind Work Expenses to find employment by deducting many work-related expenses when declaring income for SSI. The result is a lower countable income and a higher SSI benefit.
Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE)
Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE) are costs incurred from being employed due to the employee’s disability. For beneficiaries who are eligible, some of these costs can be excluded from their countable income, allowing them to receive a larger benefit amount.
Your Living Situation
Generally speaking, your living expenses do not affect your SSI benefits since the amount of the benefit depends on your income. As long as you’re paying for your own food and shelter costs, you can also live in someone else’s household and still receive maximum SSI benefits. However, if you do life with someone else and either don’t pay or only pay part of your food and shelter costs, then your SSI benefits may be reduced by up to one-third.
Additionally, having a permanent residence will not affect your SSI benefits. If you end up becoming homeless, you can still receive up to the maximum SSI benefits amount payable in your state. Being an SSI benefits recipient may leave you eligible to receive subsidized housing as well.
If you currently reside in a pubic shelter, you can still receive SSI benefits up to six months out of any nine months you live there.
What You Should Not Do
Even though you have been approved for Social Security benefits doesn’t mean your case is completely set in stone. Your case can still be reviewed in the future if you do not do these important steps:
Ignore Doctors Visits & Medical Treatments
Regardless if your doctor visits are improving your condition or not, you should continue to follow up on your doctor visits and medical treatment. Not only is it good to regularly see your doctors to stay on track of your health, but doing so will provide the SSA with medical proof that your disability is long-term and severe enough to deserve benefits. If your case is reviewed and you have no updated medical proof about the condition of your disability, then the SSA may appoint a specialist who is not familiar with your medical history or condition.
Limit Contact With The SSA
It’s important to notify the SSA if your circumstances change. For instance, if there are any changes to your medical condition, address, or marital status, then you need to update the SSA. Otherwise, there may be complications down the road during a review of your case.
Don’t Appeal Your Case
If your case is reviewed by the SSA and they deem you ineligible for future benefits, then you have the right to appeal. Don’t wait! You have only ten days after receiving your denial notice. Even though you have 60 days to file an appeal, but you will lose your benefits if you don’t appeal within that ten-day window.
Don’t give up on your benefits just because the SSA review board turns you down! With an expert disability advocate by your side, the Social Security disability appeals process does not need to be so overwhelming. Contact a disability professional right away to help you overturn initial determinations and get the SSDI compensation you have waited so long for.