The United States recently received some rather good news about our Disability Income program, reversing a significant drain on the economy:

About 1.5 million Americans applied for disability benefits last year, which is the lowest number since 2002. Government officials say that number may be even lower this year. The total number of workers who received benefits in May was 8.63 million, dropping from a record height of 8.96 million in September 2014.

So what happens to the eligibility when someone in the program goes back to work? Are they kicked out? Can they reapply for the same medical condition even if by showing they could get a job should in theory demonstrate that their disability isn't a barrier to employment?

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    The question makes no sense; if they 'go back to work' then in what sense are 'they kicked out' of the program?
    – Mozibur Ullah
    Jun 24, 2018 at 0:34
  • Basically, if the person were to lose their job again, would they go right back on disability or would they have to reapply?
    – K Dog
    Jun 24, 2018 at 0:39
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    This is a legal question. It’s not about politics.
    – chirlu
    Jun 24, 2018 at 5:42
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    @userLTK: Well, that depends on where you work. One of the best engineers I worked with was in a wheelchair, with only limited use of his arms, and had been since an accident in his teens. Another was missing an arm & leg. Didn't stop either of them from using their brains :-)
    – jamesqf
    Jun 24, 2018 at 17:19
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    I had to stop working when my cancer almost killed me. When I started back again, both the private and (Canadian) government payments assured me that if it comes back and I am again unable to work, I can revert to the old setup. You seem to feel that a disability is a static thing. It isn't, even for someone with an injury - pain varies, energy varies, sleeping varies, so things change all the time. Jun 25, 2018 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


It depends on the specific program and the definition of disability. In broad strokes under social security disability you are disabled if you cannot work at all regardless of what your typical profession is. Generally, the work threshold is your ability to sit at a sewing machine for 3 hours, so the bar is quite low. The Social Security program also does not have a partial "return to work" benefit.

If you are receiving disability income under such a program and return to work, you would then not be disabled because you are receiving the benefit because you are unable to work. As such, to begin receiving benefits again you would have to go through a similar, if not the same, claim process to begin the benefits again.

Private disability insurance programs are much more liberal in many ways. Some will pay benefits if you're perfectly capable of working but not able to perform the tasks of your usual profession. Some will pay partial benefits if you return to work on a part time basis.

I think it's woefully inaccurate to say that someone who has returned to work has been "kicked off" the program. Disability income insurance is about covering your income in the event you cannot work. Why would your car insurance continue paying for a rental car after your car is fixed? They didn't "kick you out of" the rental car. The payment for rental car's relative utility has simply expired.


1) There are income thresholds that you can't go over without losing your disability benefits.
2) Once you prove that you're able to work (and lose your disability) you'll have a hard time convincing the Social Security Administration that you're still disabled unless your situation changed. (like you tried to go back to work and re-injured yourself because you really weren't able to do the job you tried to do)

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