I don’t know about you, but I had to escape the Wisconsin winter and the minus degree wind chills. Being an adventurous guy, I found myself in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, among the nine breathtaking islands of the Azores. If you like waterfalls and swimming with dolphins, this is the place to be!
Checking my emails, I see I have an interesting question from Roy.
I receive SSDI and have for several years, since I became disabled and couldn’t work my regular job in construction. I have been making fishing lures and rods as a hobby since I was a kid; I give them to friends and family members as gifts. I now want to try selling them for profit and have already talked to an employment counselor about the business side, and it looks doable. However, I’m not sure about trying it mainly because I’m afraid that Social Security will lower and even stop my benefits (and my Medicare) if I work. If the business doesn’t work out for me, I’ll no longer have any income. What will happen to my benefits if I try this?
I understand you are hesitant about beginning your enterprise due to the fear of losing your benefits. Over the years, I have worked with disability beneficiaries who had similar fears yet were able to successfully achieve their work goals (including self employment).
An important factor in their success was Social Security’s disability benefit programs that have work incentives or supports that allow a beneficiary like you to try working without having your benefits or Medicare coverage end.
For example, you have a nine month trial work period to try working, earn any amount, and still receive full benefits for at least a year after starting work. If your net earnings from self employment (NESE) never become substantial, your benefits can continue indefinitely as long as you are still disabled. If your earnings are substantial after a year, your benefits will stop. For any months that your earnings are not substantial within 36 months after the end of your Trial Work Period (TWP), you can again receive benefits. You also have five years to restart your benefits without a new application. And, your Medicare can continue all this time and possibly even longer.
Also, when Social Security looks at your net earnings to decide if they are substantial, they will deduct expenses that you have paid for certain services and items that you need to work. Similarly, Social Security may deduct the cost of contributions from others to your business effort.
You should contact a benefits specialist who can provide you with more detailed information about work incentives and returning to work. As a Social Security disability beneficiary, you can receive benefit counseling for free from a Community Work Incentive Counselor (CWIC) through the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program. Or, you may receive assistance from a work incentive benefits counselor through organizations like your state Vocational Rehabilitation agency. Here are the phone numbers that you can call and the website you can check to find the WIPA program provider in your area: 1-866-968-7824 (voice) and 1-866-833-2967 (TTY), www.chooseworkttw.net/findhelp.
Also, remember to contact the Social Security Administration to keep them updated, both when you start working and after: 1-800-772-1213.
I’m going to do some hiking around Ribeira Grande, which is part of Sao Miguel island. Due to volcanic geology, the landscape is diverse with deep ravines, mineral hot springs, foothills and mountains, in addition to the many beaches.