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If I get SSDI benefits can I not work at all?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are not for everyone. Anyone in North Carolina who has done any serious investigation of the issue knows that there are some strict requirements that have to be met.

For example, as the official Social Security website explains, the first requirement for qualifying for SSDI is that you have to have worked for an extended period of time, usually 10 years, and paid into the Social Security system. Next, you have to have become disabled to a point where you cannot work for at least a year or be facing the prospect that your condition will result in your dying.

That might leave some with the impression that if you are lucky enough to have been approved for benefits on your first application, which is not often the case, you cannot work at all -- that performing any sort of job will cost you your benefits. That may not necessarily be the case, however.

As another page on the SSA website notes, a person "must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA)" to be eligible for benefits. And the government defines SGA as being activity that yields the beneficiary no more than a certain amount of gross income every month.  

For individuals who have suffered mental or physical impairment, but who are not blind, that amount is currently $1,070 a month. People who are legally blind enjoy a higher threshold of $1,800 a month. The limits usually are adjusted as the national average wage index changes.

In addition, there are support mechanisms in place designed to help those recipients who feel they can return to work do just that without a loss of benefits. They include one option of going through a nine-month trial work period during which a beneficiary can see whether a resumption of work is possible or not.

Knowing your rights and your options is always crucial and no two situations are the same. If you have questions or face the challenge of a claims appeal, it's good advice to consult an attorney.

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