After some trial and error and much careful consideration, I decided to put aside the idea of working full-time at present and decided instead to pursue part-time employment. Just working to find a job was causing issues with rising pain and fatigue levels and I was already falling down on the job of caring properly for myself. So as I was having serious doubts about how I would handle working full-time and my husband, who tries his best not to judge was clearly having a hard time holding his tongue, I knew the wise choice was to peal back on my plan and attempt part-time work instead.
Care for an Ehlers-Danlos body can be in itself a full-time job–seriously–there’s PT & exercise, several doctor’s appointments a month, dealing with various braces and other devices, the added time it takes to manage all of our medications & supplements, additional nutritional needs along with allergies and sensitivities that require many of us to cook everything from scratch, not to mention the hours of downtime we’re forced into each week due to stomach problems, fatigue, joint injuries, and migraines. It’s not joke.
Still, I’m bored with my life and ready to be productive. Our debt is ever growing thanks to my hefty healthcare bills and alternative medications that medicare won’t cover even in part and my need for expensive, quality food and care products. I want to work as much as I’m able. I’m just not sure what that really looks like quite yet, so I’ve enacted a plan that will help me figure it out and since I’ve signed up with a WIPA program and the Ticket-to-Work program, I now know I can easily do this without the threat of losing or even seeing a reduction in my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Payments so long as I follow the rules carefully.
The Social Security Administration has changed the rules on part-time work since last I checked a few years ago, making earning a little extra quite palatable for people earning SSDI payments. They used to reduce the amount of your payments by 50% of what you earned. Not anymore, if you’re on SSDI, according to my WIPA representative. Now, if you work at a level below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level for 2017, earning less than $1170 per month (1), you still get to keep your whole SSDI check. However, it you make more than $840 per month, it will count toward your Trial Work Period (TWP) and you only get 9 of those, so if you don’t want to use up your TWP months until you’re sure you really can make enough money to sustain yourself, you want to stay below $840 per month.
Additionally, if you work for yourself (and if you don’t fill out an I-9 and tax paperwork to get hired as an official employee by someone you are working for yourself) then you cannot work more than 80 hours per month. Working more than 80 hours per month for yourself is considered SGA by the Social Security Administration. So if you’re working for yourself and want to keep receiving your SSDI check, because you’re still fully disabled and unable to perform full-time regular employment, you must both remain under 80 hours of production and $840 of net income every month. To figure out your net income every month, here is the formula shared to me by my WIPA representative: gross earnings + expenses x .9235.
While being able to claim your expenses helps when you work for yourself, the number of hours you can work hurts. Being realistic, you often have to work harder to make more, especially when starting your own business, so if you make this choice, you have to start out smart and business choice is very important. You want a low risk, high return business that requires very little effort to be successful More on this in my next article.
It is important to note that these are just the rules for SSDI and not for SSI. These rules can also change depending on your individual situation and you should check with the Social Security Administration or your WIPA representative to be sure you have the most accurate information for your case, should you decide to pursue working part-time.
Clearly, my hope is that I’ll eventually get strong enough to be able to earn a lot more than $840 or $1170 per month and become self-sufficient again, but until I’m ready, it’s nice to know that I can be productive and bring a little more money into my household at a level that won’t exacerbate my condition or endanger my SSDI payments and feel more fulfilled while doing it.