Q: A reader in Dayton, Tenn., asks: "Would you please answer in the Chattanooga Times Free Press how much a person can work and draw disability? I will appreciate your answer."
A: We have special rules called work incentives that help you keep your disability and Medicare benefits while you test your ability to work. For example, there is a trial work period. During the trial work period, you can receive full benefits regardless of how much you earn. You just have to report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment.
The trial work period continues until you have worked nine months within a 60-month period. In 2011, a trial work month is any month in which your total earnings are over $720.
After the trial work period ends, your benefits will stop during months your earnings are at a level we consider substantial, currently $1,000 in 2011. Different amounts apply to people disabled because of blindness. The monthly substantial amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2011 is more than $1,640. For an additional 36 months after completing the trial work period, we can start your benefits again if your earnings fall below the substantial level and you continue to have a disabling impairment.
Q: Mr. R, of Calhoun, Ga., writes: "Is it possible to determine how much Social Security benefits you have received (in total dollars) since you have been enrolled? Furthermore, can the total dollars be broken down to show the actual cash received after deductions. This information would be most interesting."
A: A SSA-1099 is mailed to you in January showing the total amount of benefits you received in the previous year including deductions. If you did not receive the SSA 1099 for 2010, you can create an account on www.socialsecurity.gov or come to your local Social Security office. However, if you need a replacement SSA 1099 for an earlier tax year, you must call 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Further reference for this question and many others can be found at our website: www.socialsecurity.gov under the Questions segment in the right column. Select "Benefits," then hit GO. Search keyword.
Q: "I understand that by 2013 I will not be able to continue receiving my Social Security payments by paper check. What are the benefits of using direct deposit?"
A: The benefits of using direct deposit are:
-- It's safe;
-- It's secure;
-- It's convenient;
-- There are no checks to be lost;
-- You are in control of your money; and
-- You will get your benefits on time, even if you're out of town, sick or unable to get to the bank.
You choose the account where your Social Security payment is deposited. If you don't have a bank account, you can use the Direct Express prepaid debit card to receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other federal benefit payments. With this card, you can make purchases, pay bills and get cash at thousands of locations nationwide. Learn more about direct deposit and Direct Express at www.godirect.gov.
Get answers to your Social Security questions each Thursday from the Social Security District Director Martin Coffey. Submit questions by writing to Business Editor John Vass Jr., Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at email@example.com.