People who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits generally have either an illness or an injury that is so severe that they can’t imagine going back to work. In some cases, applicants can’t even provide for their daily basic needs anymore and must rely on family members for help with dressing themselves, bathing or eating.

However, even the most severe medical conditions can fluctuate or change over time. You may find that while you can’t endure demanding physical work, you may be able to work in a customer service position or operate a cash register.

Returning to work can give you a sense of independence and social connection. However, it could also mean that you lose your SSDI benefits, especially if you try to go back in a full-time capacity. Many people worry about trying to return to work because they think they will permanently lose their benefits.

The Social Security Administration wants you to try to work

While it is true that the Social Security Administration (SSA) closely monitors benefit recipients and expects them to report income and work, they do so primarily to deter fraud. The SSA supports people in their effort to return to work, often allowing people to receive reduced benefits if they only work part-time. However, if you attempt to return to work full-time, the SSA could stop your benefits. That cessation does not have to be permanent if it turns out that working isn’t successful for you.

There is a five-year grace period after you lose your benefits

Many people are reticent to even consider returning to the workforce because they believe inaccurately that they will have to go through the entire, protracted process of applying for benefits again if their job doesn’t work out for one reason or another. However, that is not how SSDI works.

All necessary medical records remain on file with the SSA for years after you cease receiving benefits. If you go back to work and then discover that doing so was a bad decision, you can notify the SSA and request that they resume your benefits. While they may investigate and review your case, you typically won’t have to fully reapply at that time.

Additionally, if you had to leave work suddenly and can’t wait for your benefit, you may even be able to receive six months of temporary cash benefits. Don’t let the fear of losing your benefits prevent you from pursuing work that will help you balance your budget or give you a greater quality of life.