Susan Gets a Job

Susan started getting in touch with her old contacts at architectural firms. The local economy was in bad shape, but Susan was lucky, because her old firm happened to need somebody and they knew that she did good work. After accepting the job offer in writing, Susan sent the HR department a written request for reasonable accommodations. She was using a wheelchair now and knew she needed a few things:

  • A parking place near the entrance to the office
  • A desk at an appropriate height for her power wheelchair
  • An office of her own, rather than a cubicle, so that she could better concentrate, despite the lingering effects of her head injury
  • To have all staff meetings be held in an accessible location (they were currently held in a room that could only be reached by going up 2 steps)

The HR department was very understanding of her requests. As an architectural firm, they were even embarrassed about the meeting room and completely rebuilt its entrance to include a ramp.

Susan started out by working about 12 hours a week, because she was afraid of pushing herself too hard. During these months, she made about $1,200 a month at her job. It was less than she made before, because she was only part-time, but it was a start that let her test the waters and see if her mind and body could really handle the rigors of working again. And, since it was the Trial Work Period, the family still got Susan’s $1,004 in SSDI and Griffin’s $488 in Child’s Benefits.

Things went really well for her, and just 3 months later, she started working to 25 hours a week. Now she was making about $2,500 per month, a lot more than her $1,004 in SSDI benefits and Griffin’s $488 in Child’s Benefits. And, for the remaining 6 months of the Trial Work Period and 3 months of the grace period, she and Griffin kept getting the Social Security benefits, meaning the family’s total income was almost $4,000 per month.

Susan was really happy with the higher income. She and Griffin were able to allow themselves a few luxuries and she was even able to finally put some money into her savings account again, for the first time in years. Not only that, but she felt a lot better about herself — she was doing what she loved and was once again a productive member of the community.

Susan remembered Tom’s advice about deciding whether MA-EPD made sense for her, so she looked at all of her medical bills from the previous year. After adding them up, she realized that she would save money by signing up for MA-EPD even while she was still getting her SSDI. She contacted Tom again and asked what she needed to do. He told her to sign up for MA-EPD at her local county human services agency. When Susan updated Griffin’s information on MNsure, she found out he no longer qualified for MA because the family’s total income from work and benefits was now over 280% of FPG. Instead, she had to switch him over to an affordable individual health plan, which was easy to do on MNsure.

Susan also made sure to keep reporting her income to her local Social Security office; she wanted to make sure that all of her records were accurate. As Tom had explained, the family stopped getting the Social Security benefits after a year, because Susan kept working and earning more than $1,220 per month. That meant their unearned income went down to zero. When this happened, Susan called Tom and he reminded her, “Remember, for the next 3 years, you are in your Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). That means that if your disability gets worse and you can’t work enough to earn $1,220 per month, you can get back on SSDI.”

“Good to remember,” replied Deanna, “but I actually think I’m ready to start working full-time again, to make more money for our family’s expenses. Of course, it’s good for me to know that if I ever need it, SSDI will be there for me.” She talked to the architectural firm and they gave her more hours. When she did this, her Medicare was unaffected, but she let the local county human services agency know about her SSDI stopping and her higher income from work. Since her earnings doubled, she had to pay a slightly higher premium for her MA-EPD coverage. She also updated Griffin’s information on MNsure, but there was no change in his coverage because the family’s higher earned income was balanced by the end of their cash benefits from Social Security.