7 Steps for Returning to Work After Being on Disability

How to return to work after being on disability
  • Consult with professionals.
  • Make sure you’re ready.
  • Make use of the accommodations you’re entitled to.
  • Review your company’s disability policy.
  • Ask for assistance from human resources.
  • Update your resume.
  • Maintain your disability benefits.

But Carl returned to work less than eight weeks after his surgery. It wasn’t because he couldn’t pay his bills without a paycheck; his employer provided short-term disability insurance, which helped. Instead, it was because he was eager to return to his regular life and because his employer was supportive of a plan for a gradual transition to his regular duties. After receiving the go-ahead from his physician, he began working half-days for two weeks as he recovered his stamina and endurance, and soon he was back to working full-time.

As a result, Carl returned to work 40 days earlier than anticipated based on the original estimated date thanks to his smooth 14-day return to work. He was also able to return to work thanks to the transition plan without having to use his long-term insurance. Additionally, his employer avoided paying overtime wages to other employees or hiring and training replacement staff, saving money.

You’d think that all employers would support return-to-work strategies with a win-win situation like this — and this is just one of thousands of examples I could provide. However, we’ve discovered that a startlingly large number of employers, human resources specialists, and even benefits specialists have misconceptions about return to work and the modifications that can make it successful. And it’s having a negative financial impact on both them and their staff.

1. It’ll create a workers’ compensation claim. Some employers are concerned that a worker with a disabling injury will be a safety risk, re-injure themselves while working, and file a pricey workers’ compensation claim. The truth is that easing employees back into full-time work as they regain strength and retrain their skills makes them safer.

2. Accommodations are not required unless the injury occurred at work. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Council, this one is also untrue. Employers are not permitted by law to distinguish between workers who are disabled at work and those who are hurt at home or elsewhere. Instead of focusing on the illness or injury and where it occurred, wise employers concentrate on getting a valuable employee back to work.

3. Employees must be 100% or they can’t perform productive work. Many tasks a skilled, knowledgeable employee can carry out during a transition period are often discovered by employers who are willing to think outside the box. True, some jobs have more rigid requirements than others. For instance, a nurse might not be able to immediately return to patient care due to physical limitations. However, if you’re like the majority of us, you have a backlog of unfinished projects that would help your business. A transitioning employee may be perfectly qualified to fill those positions. In other situations, simple, affordable modifications can improve an employee’s performance: An assembly line worker who is unable to stand for an entire eight-hour shift can use a leaning stool as support and still produce just as much.

4. Customer care or service will be negatively impacted. This one might appear to be true logically, but when you look at the numbers, it actually isn’t. When compared to hiring, training, and ramping up replacement staff, accommodating a returning employee with part-time hours or different responsibilities for a while has a smaller negative impact on service and productivity. Cross-training employees frequently in different roles also gives employers the flexibility to move resources whenever needed.

5. Other employees will also want “light duty. This might not exactly be a myth because some workers might actually prefer what they believe to be simpler work. The term “light duty” itself, which is loaded and ambiguous, is the problem. Here, effective communication is crucial. Be open and transparent, and make sure staff members are aware of their options for returning to work. The morale of the entire team is affected by the return-to-work program, which increases productivity.

Returning To Work After a Permanent Disability

How to return to work after being on disability

Here are some actions to take when thinking about going back to work after a disability:

1. Consult with professionals

You can decide whether you’re prepared to return to work after a disability by speaking with your doctor. Your doctor can assess your physical health and your job responsibilities to determine whether you can safely return to work. If your physician determines that it is safe for you to return to work, they will give you the paperwork you need to give to your employer as proof that you are fit for duty.

While on leave, you should make an effort to stay in touch with your employer. Your employer will be able to prepare any accommodations you may require once you return if you keep them informed of the status of your recovery.

Prior to returning to work after a disability, you might also need to speak with a lawyer. In order to protect your rights, a lawyer can assist you in comprehending both the long-term disability policy of your employer and the applicable laws.

2. Make sure you’re ready

Returning to work too soon could hinder your recovery and put your employer in a difficult situation, so it’s important to think about whether you can realistically perform your previous job duties without endangering your health. You should still evaluate your own mental preparedness to adopt a work routine after your doctors have given you the all-clear to return to work.

Make the adjustments you need to make the transition easier on yourself. It’s important to give yourself what you need to cope when returning to work after a traumatic injury or event, whether that be quiet time to reflect, working from home occasionally, or simply easing back into the workplace gradually.

3. Make use of the accommodations you’re entitled to

To make it simple for you to inform your employer about clarification of health restrictions at work and the reasonable accommodations you will need, keep your medical records organized and close at hand. Inform your employer of any potential problems and how to effectively resolve them.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your employer is there to support you by providing any tools, special accommodations, or other resources you require because they want you to succeed.

4. Review your company’s disability policy

Before returning to work, review your company’s long-term disability policy. It will specify the procedures you must follow in order to resume your job as well as whether your disability benefits will still be available once you start working again.

Look for an occupational clause in the long-term disability policy. These provisions specify when and how your employer may provide you with disability benefits. The two different types of occupational clauses are:

If your employer’s disability policy has an own-occupation clause, you might be able to switch jobs while still receiving benefits. You can receive benefits as long as you are unable to work if your company’s insurance policy has an any-occupation clause.

Your employer’s disability policy will specify the tasks you are permitted to perform and the number of hours you can work after returning to work. Additionally, there might be a maximum amount you can make and still be eligible for employer disability benefits.

5. Ask for assistance from human resources

It might be simpler for you to return to work after a disability if you get in touch with your employer’s human resources department. You can ask the HR representative how long your disability benefits will last and talk about the accommodations you need to return to work successfully.

You might be unable to resume your previous position due to certain disabilities. For instance, you might consider returning to your company in a position that doesn’t require physical effort if you have a job that demands a lot of physical effort but are permanently injured and are unable to work physically. In this situation, speak with your HR representative to learn more about any retraining or continuing education opportunities your company may provide to help you transition to a new position.

6. Update your resume

If your injury or disability prevents you from returning to your prior employment, you should think about updating your resume to reflect any new skills you have acquired while out of the workforce. Indicate in the education section of your resume which skills you learned from any courses or classes you took during this time.

After becoming disabled, it’s crucial to review your skill set because you’ll need to figure out any changes your resume needs to reflect your physical and mental abilities. Your resume can be changed to emphasize your mental abilities, such as problem-solving or phone etiquette, if your disability is primarily physical.

7. Maintain your disability benefits

You can continue receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for up to 45 months while you are employed thanks to the “Ticket to Work” program. You will receive all benefits for the nine months following enrollment while a work ability test is conducted. During this time, you can stop working without it having any impact on your benefits.

36 months are added to the eligibility period after the nine-month grace period. For the first three months of the extended period, you will receive all SSDI cash benefits. Your benefits for the remaining time will be determined by your income.

If your income falls below a certain threshold, you will receive benefits intended to supplement it. These benefits will continue until you reach the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) threshold for substantial gainful activity.

You will continue to have Medicare coverage while enrolled in the Ticket to Work program for a while after your SSDI benefits have ended. After your trial work period has ended, Medicare coverage continues for an additional seven years, or 93 months.

What to do if your return to work has major restrictions due to your disability

A federal program called “Ticket to Work” was created to assist SSDI recipients who are disabled in finding employment. You will be permitted to continue receiving disability benefits for a set amount of time while participating in the Ticket to Work program and working a regular job.

Through Ticket to Work, you can access more than 600 employment networks. The services these employment networks provide include:

People who are between the ages of 18 and 64 and receive SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to a disability are eligible to sign up for the Ticket to Work program. By phone or online, you can determine your eligibility for the program and enroll.

After enrolling in the Ticket to Work program, you will need to make timely advancements toward your employment goals. Making timely progress entails taking concrete actions to lessen your dependence on disability benefits.

While enrolled in Ticket to Work, you will be subject to a recurring continuing disability review (CDR). Your eligibility for the program and continued disability are determined by the results of this review. If you make timely progress, Social Security won’t ask for a CDR.

If you discover that you are unable to work within five years of the end of the Ticket to Work extended eligibility period, you can ask Social Security to reinstate your SSDI cash benefits. It is not necessary to submit a fresh SSDI application during this time period.


What happens if I go back to work after starting Social Security disability?

No matter how much money you make at your job, you can return to work for up to nine months while still receiving full social security disability benefits if you 1) report to work and 2) are still disabled.

Can I stop Social Security disability and go back to work?

You will be given a trial period when you notify the SSA that you want to try to return to work. Up to nine months of employment will not affect your ability to receive Social Security disability benefits. Depending on how much you make, the benefits you receive will change.

Can you be on disability the rest of your life?

You are entitled to PD payments for the rest of your life if you have a permanent total disability.

How much money can you make and still get SSI 2021?

The first $65 in earnings and half of all income over $65 in a month are excluded from Social Security benefits. In 2021, a person can make about $1,650 per month and still be eligible for SSI thanks to the earned income exclusions (though the monthly payment is reduced if you have countable income). This is how this works.

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