I’ve Worked Myself Off of Benefits and Now I Can’t Work Anymore: What Happens? By Michael Nugent

I’ve Worked Myself Off of Benefits and Now I Can’t Work Anymore: What Happens? By Michael Nugent
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The Dignity of Risk and the Right to Fail

I lost my SSI cash benefit due to earning too much money at work, but I still managed to hold onto my Medicaid. How long does my automatic reinstatement last if I fail at work and need to return to SSI? What happens to me if I need to return to SSI and have worked beyond the reinstatement time limit? Thanks, Joe from New Jersey

Once you are cut from cash benefits you are entitled to expedited reinstatement (EXR) for a period of 60 months (5 years).

This means that “if your benefits ended because you worked and had earnings, you can request that your benefits start again without having to complete a new application.” Social Security will then determine whether you can get benefits again. They can give you provisional (temporary) benefits for up to 6 months while they make a determination of whether to give you benefits again. Your provisional benefit includes your cash benefit and Medicaid or Medicare.

Both SSI and SSDI recipients are eligible for expedited reinstatement.
Even if a determination is made that you no longer qualify for cash benefits, you will usually not have to pay the provisional benefits back.

Your provisional benefits will end earlier then 6 months if you (1) Are notified of our EXR decision (2) Engage in SGA or (3) Reach full retirement age.

The Catch

I have heard from multiple Social Security recipients that it can sometimes take a while before you start getting your benefits after you have applied for provisional benefits. This can be frustrating if you have been earning income and then have to wait for a few months before your provisional benefits kick back in.

The second part of Joe’s question is also frustrating, though not without a glimmer of hope. If you have worked beyond the five years, and for whatever reason, you need to collect benefits again, it is necessary to go through a new application process. You basically have to start from scratch.

Positive aspects of EXR

You are not left high and dry if you start working and something happens in your life within five years of you going off of your cash benefits that necessitates you going back on benefits.
In theory, you will be given provisional benefits while a decision is made determining your continued eligibility. Thus, once you enter the world of working, the situation is not do or die.

There is a cushion to fall on.

Another important aspect of EXR is that it allows the individual to eventually get another Trial Work Period (TWP) and Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). After 24 months without working above substantial gainful activity ($1220 a month in 2019), you receive another TWP and EPE as if you had gone on benefits for the first time.


Expedited reinstatement allows for six months of provisional benefits. Social Security will still be reexamining your particular circumstances and making a decision about whether you will go back on benefits permanently. There is a risk that you will be denied eligibility.

If you are denied reinstatement you have the right to appeal. This must be done in 60 days and is similar to the appeal process for an original application.

The Dignity of Risk

There is some risk when you attempt to go back to work that you may fail. This is not only the case for people on social security, but for the general public as well. The good thing about Social Security benefits is that they have created work incentives that help you to make your way back to work slowly, so that there is little risk of losing everything.

There is still risk. You can apply for expedited reinstatement, collect provisional benefits, and then get turned down for expedited reinstatement if medical records show your condition has improved.

The bright side of this scenario is that you have probably already proved (to yourself) that you can work for a significant length of time. Usually, our worst moments are only temporary. If you are able to go through a crisis and get through it, the odds are that you can succeed at work again.

If we decide to stay on Social Security benefits as our primary source of income, we are certain to live a financial life where we are hovering around poverty. If we choose to risk going off the benefits, there is always the chance we will not succeed. If we do succeed, however, and earn substantially more than we can on benefits, there is the chance and hope for a better quality of life.

For a more extensive article on Expedited Reinstatement click on the link.

Pullout: “There is some risk when you attempt to go back to work…This is…the case for…the general public as well…If we decide to stay on Social Security benefits…we are certain to live a financial life where we are hovering around poverty…If we do succeed [at working]…there is the chance and hope for a better quality of life.”

by Michael Nugent

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