If you have a private Disability policy
This is where you may be most at risk. Each private plan has its own rules. Pay particular attention to the company's definition of disabled. Look for options that permit partial return to work for trial periods, and carefully consider the option of residual disability. Also check if the policy offers financial aid for education or training.
If you have Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Once the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines that you are disabled, there is a five-month wait period before you receive SSDI checks. After receiving them for 24 months, you automatically qualify for Medicare health insurance.
Under SSDI, several incentive programs en-courage you to go back to work without threat-ening your benefits, most notably, Trial Work Period: You can work for nine months without losing any of your SSDI benefits. The months do not have to be consecutive, and you can earn any amount of money during that time. Any month in which you earn less than $200 is not counted as one of the nine. At the end of the trial period, SSA determines if you are making $500 or more per month. If you are, you'll receive three more months of benefits before your checks stop.
For three years after your checks stop, if you need to return to SSDI, a call to SSA will reinstate you in 30 to 90 days. During this period, you are entitled to your full SSDI check for any month that you earn less than $500. You can keep Medicare for your lifetime if you pay the premiums.
If it has been longer than three years but less than five since your SSDI stopped, and you fall into disability or your monthly income drops below $500 per month, you will have to file a new application for benefits.
But once it's approved, you won't have to go through another five-month waiting period before receiving SSDI again.
If you have supplemental security income (SSI)
Under SSI, you are not entitled to the trial work period, and earnings will affect your check. You can earn up to $85 without losing a penny. For every dollar earned over $85, Social Security will deduct 50 cents from your check.
In most states, you are entitled to Medicaid as long as you receive SSI. You can keep Medicaid past this point if: a) you tell Social Security you want to be a "Section 1619 case"; b) you remain disabled; c) you continue to meet all SSI requirements except you earn too much; d) you have to keep Medicaid to continue to work; or e) you earn less than the state's annual amount. If you need to return to SSI, in your first year of working, a call to Social Security will do it. After a year, you must reapply.