Social Security- Marcellus Shall Disability

Date: May 20, 2014

Lou is receiving Social Security Disability benefits as a result of a low back condition which involves several herniated discs. He was previously employed as a well driller but cannot perform that job due to the rigorous physical aspects of his former job. Lou has stayed in touch with his former employer, Bud. Bud’s well drilling business is thriving as a result of the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom. Bud asked Lou to come back to work as a consultant and assured Lou that he will not be performing any physical tasks. But Lou is concerned that if he returns to work, his Social Security Disability benefits will stop. Question: Can Lou return to work and still collect Social Security Disability benefits? Answer: Yes, there are special rules that allow people receiving Social Security Disability benefits (or Supplemental Security Income) to return to work and still receive monthly payments. And if Lou cannot continue working because of his back problems his benefits can start again. Social Security has created work incentives to allow people receiving benefits to return to work. These incentives include continued cash benefits for a time and continued Medicare or Medicaid while Lou returns to work. This “trial work period” will allow Lou to test his ability to work for at least nine months. During this trial work period, Lou will receive his full Social Security benefits regardless of how much he earns as long as he reports his work activity to Social Security and he continues to have a disabling impairment. In 2014, a trial work month is any month in which his total earnings are $770 or more. The trial work period continues until you has worked nine months within a 60-month period. After this trial work period, Lou also has 36 months during which he can work and still receive benefits for any month when his earnings are not “substantial”. In 2014, earnings of $1070 or more are considered “substantial”. If Lou earns more than $1070 per month after the trial work period, his benefits will stop.

If you have questions about a social security claim, contact me at or call (570) 347-1011 for a free consultation.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.