Ask Larry

Am I In Danger Of Losing My Social Security Disability Benefits Because I Received A Christmas Bonus?

HI Larry
I have question. I have been on ssd for 2 years. I have been working PT to supplement my income. I have never been over the 1260 allotted amount if fact most months I am way under. However this year my employer gave me a xmas bonus that I did not know about and as a result this month I will be over by aprox 450$. however if I total my pt income for the year and divide by 12 (including the bonus) I average 1136.00 for each month. should i return the bonus am I endanger of losing my ssd?


The only reason that a person's Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits would stop due to work is if their earnings are determined to be substantial gainful activity (SGA). The monthly SGA amount for non-blind individuals in 2020 is $1260, and in 2021 it will be $1310. Determining whether or not a person's work and earnings are SGA is a complex issue, so I can't provide a definite answer to your question.

Generally, when determining whether or not a person's earnings are SGA, Social Security normally looks at their average monthly earnings for up to a full calendar year, assuming that the person worked the entire year and their hours of work and job duties remained roughly the same over that period of time ( Therefore, if you worked the same job for the whole year of 2020 and if your calendar year earnings average out to less than $1260 including your bonus, Social Security will more than likely not consider your work to be SGA.

However, one thing that could complicate matters is if you are in an extended period of eligibility (EPE). EPEs occur after a person has completed their trial work period (TWP) and subsequently had their benefits suspended due to SGA. During an EPE, a person's suspended SSDI benefits can be reinstated if their earnings drop below SGA level. EPEs last for a period of at least 3 years after a person's TWP is completed. When a person is in an EPE, they can be paid only for months that their earnings are below SGA level. So, when a person is in an EPE, Social Security goes by their individual monthly earnings as opposed to average monthly earnings. If your SSDI benefits were never previously suspended due to SGA, though, then you're almost certainly not in an EPE. In that case, Social Security should look at your average monthly earnings when deciding whether or not your work is SGA.

Regardless of your circumstances, I would advise you to get in touch with your nearest Social Security office as soon as possible to discuss your case. Only Social Security has access to your individual records, so they are the only people who are in a position to be able to tell you whether or not your bonus might result in a stoppage of your SSDI benefits.

Best, Jerry

Dec 11 2020 - 8:47am
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