This article, authored by Claudia Mott, was originally posted on NJMoneyhelp.com

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Q. I’m 61 and am in the middle of the SSDI Ticket To Work Program. There’s a possibility that I will exceed the earning maximum, thus terminating my benefits. At that point, I would have to reapply if I wanted to have my benefits reinstated. If this happens after I turn 64 and become involuntarily unemployed — assuming I’m eligible — can I file for unemployment since I will no longer be considered permanently disabled? I can’t get a straight answer from anyone.
— Confused

A. It’s complicated.

The Ticket to Work program provides those receiving either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Social Security Income (SSI) the opportunity to gain employment along with necessary education and training.

As you mention, it is available for those ages 18 to 64.

Once the Trial Work period ends you will begin your 36-month extended period of eligibility (EPE), according to the SSA.gov website.

During this period, Social Security will review your earnings and employment and compare it to the current substantial gainful activity (SGA) value in order to assess whether you are eligible for a disability benefit, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.

“For 2022, the SGA for an individual who is not blind is $1,350 per month and $2,260 for those who are blind. When your earnings exceed the SGA level, your disability benefits may cease,” Mott said. “However, if earnings fall below the SGA level during the 36-month EPE, your benefits may be restarted without needing to file a new application. This is known as an expedited reinstatement.”

In the event that your earnings are consistently above the SGA level and your benefits are canceled, you may want to consider filing for regular Social Security benefits, Mott said.

While your Full Retirement Age (FRA) may not be attained until age 66 and 10 months or age 67 depending on the year you were born, you would be eligible to receive benefits once you turn age 62, she said. However, filing before you reach FRA will lead to a reduction in your benefit that will last your lifetime. At age 62, the reduction would be 25%, Mott said.

In terms of unemployment, New Jersey has requirements that must be met in order to qualify for benefits, she said.

“Generally, employment must be lost through `no fault of your own’ such as a layoff or company shut down,” she said.

In addition, there is a minimum level of earnings that must be met during a ”base period.” Typically, the base will be the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. For example, someone filing in the third quarter of 2022 would need eligible employment wages for the period April 2021 through March 2022, Mott said.

“The income level for unemployment eligibility in 2022 is $240 a week during at least 20 weeks of the base year or an annual earnings amount of $12,000,” she said. “There are instances where alternate base years can be used in the event a worker doesn’t qualify with a standard base year.”

Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.

This story was originally published on Sept. 22, 2022.

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