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Struggling To Maintain A Part-Time Job While Dealing With Mental Illness? Can You Receive Disability Payments?

If you suffer from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or one of any number of mental health conditions that can cause fatigue and lowered motivation, you may find the mere act of rousing yourself from bed or getting dressed to be exhausting. In these situations, the thought of holding down a full-time job while battling your mental illness could seem tantamount to running a marathon. However, subsisting on a part-time income in a high cost of living area may be enough to leave you homeless or bankrupt in short order. Can you receive disability benefits while holding down a part-time job and seeking mental health treatment? Read on to learn more about your eligibility for disability benefits while working part-time.

Can you receive disability benefits for mental illness?

Although mental health ailments have often been treated by popular culture as a personal or moral weakness, science indicates that the biological bases behind most mental illnesses are no different from those that drive physical disabilities like autoimmune disorders or even illnesses like cancer. Often, the manifestations of anxiety and depression in the form of compulsive or erratic behaviors lies in a chemical imbalance in an otherwise healthy brain and can be treated with medication or therapy.

However, the periods of total mental and physical debilitation you may go through while seeking treatment can qualify you for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if they render you unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). This means that not only can you not perform the job for which you've been trained, you're unable to perform any job that would provide you with a minimum wage. For periods when you're too depressed to get out of bed or are unable to concentrate on a task for more than a few seconds at a time, it's likely you'll be deemed unable to perform SGA.

When can you receive disability benefits while working part-time?

Because mental health disorders, like other chronic physical ailments, can be cyclical and render you able (or unable) to work with fairly short notice, the Social Security Administration has built some protections into its disability income structure. You can apply for disability benefits before being fully disabled, and may be able to begin working again while still receiving benefits as long as your total monthly income is below a threshold set by the Social Security Administration. For 2016, individuals working part-time and earning less than $1,130 per month can still receive SSD or SSI benefits during this time. Those who are blind and receive SSD benefits can earn up to $1,820 per month without giving up their benefits.

Even if you begin earning more than this amount as your mental health improves your ability to function in the workplace, you may be able to qualify for a reduced amount of benefits during your trial work period. During this period, months in which your total income drops below the SGA threshold will allow you to receive disability benefits for that month, while months in which you earn more than this amount will mean your benefits are phased out.

Another advantage to the federal disability system is the flexibility and safety net it provides for those whose mental health ailments are difficult to treat and may require several trial periods before a return to part-time or full-time work is achieved. You should still be able to receive full disability benefits if you're required to drop out of the workforce after your trial work period has ended, preventing you from having to reapply and go through the benefits determination process all over again.

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