Brian Therrien: How to Preserve Your Disability Benefits and Make Extra Money During COVID-19

About Brian Therrien: Brian is the owner of the disability digest, which is a free digital resource that helps disabled individuals get their disability benefits and maximize their disability benefits as well. Now, Brian has helped nearly 200,000 people maximize their disability benefits and their income opportunities. And back in Episode Four, Bryan educated our listeners about who is eligible for Social Security Disability and how seniors can go about applying for and getting Social Security Disability.

In this episode, Steve and Brian discuss:

1. How do you help aging individuals get their disability benefits?

  • A quick recap on how we help people get approved for disability faster is people can become a member for free here at the disability digest. What we have done is we put together a disability approval course is what we call the entire piece and when somebody registers and they’re going through the process, they get contacted by one of our advocates an actual real live person. So yes, we are digital, but we do have an interactive component with people and the advocate will meet with the individual over the phone and get an understanding of their situation, then assign them a strategy and the right components of the course so that they can go forward, clearly understand what they need to do, how they need to do it, to get their benefits approved fast, simple things like what you need to do to get doctor’s support. And if your doctor doesn’t support you, then what do you do? It’s just one quick example. So what this has done is just given people the control and the answers to get the right information to Social Security, which is what they’re looking for, and as a result, the approval times are much faster than somebody doing it on their own. 

2. What steps can be taken to maximize the chances of keeping disability benefits in the event of a post-COVID-19 review, and why are there reviews?

  • Social Security is going to review their case to determine if they’re still disabled. The second piece is to understand what you need to do to keep your benefits. When you are going through the approval process, the general rules of the game are that you need to have conditions that are being treated by a doctor and those conditions are putting limitations on you that prevents you from working. When you have been approved, you have to be able to support the same. In this delicate time with COVID some people are having a challenge getting to their doctors, and the reviews right now have been paused for that reason.

3. Did you mention the home-based workout journal?

  • Within most of these Medicare Advantage plans, they do have the SilverSneakers gym membership that you can go to but most of the gyms are closed, but many of the plans have at home structures or different ways that you can get coached, counseled, even for fitness, stretching, flexibility, pain relief regimes that one can do. 

4. How much money can one make while still receiving their benefits?

  • First of all, for those that are going through the disability approval process, they have one amount that they can make and apply for their disability benefits. At the time of this recording is $1,260. So you can work and earn money. That’s the concept. However, word of caution to those of you trying to go through work and get approved. Those cases are very, very difficult to get awarded because as Social Security will look at it and say, geez, you know, you can do a little bit of work and earn some money. Maybe with reasonable accommodations, you could do some more or different jobs. So just be very careful about that. If you’re a member of the disability digest, we can talk to you more in-depth or listen to some of our information. So that’s one part. Once you’re approved for disability, the figure is different. It is right now at the time of this recording $910 that you can make. So how that works is if you are working and collecting a paycheck, a W two like you’re employed by somebody, then it’s the gross amount of money that you make on a monthly basis. If it’s under $910, then there is no impact on your benefits. There is you know, you just report to social security that you’re working consistently with your award letter. Now if you’re doing something like an independent contractor, you know, maybe you’re running a YouTube channel or whatever it is petsitting or, or that then it is your net income after expenses, your net annual income.

5. That’s if you’re like an independent contractor or you’re self-employed as opposed to working at McDonald’s?

  • Right, and if you choose to go above the $910, there are also options that Social Security provides. There’s a program called the Ticket to Work program that provides gradual re-entry with no risk of losing your benefits so that you can earn above that $910. So it’s structured Steve so that people can test the waters with no risk of losing their benefits four or five 600 all the way up to $910. We always coach people that once you get stable there and you think you want to go for it, then it’s time, but try to do something on a limited basis first, and prove that you can consistently perform there.

6. If you are involved with the Ticket to Work program, is it expected that you are going to at some point come back into the workforce, and your disability benefits will stop?

  • Well, perhaps they could, but the Ticket to Work program, in my opinion, it’s not successful. I think it’s maybe 10% of the people that enter into it succeed. It’s difficult to get approved for disability. Most people have legitimate long term impairments that just are not able to work. So going back to full time has proven historically not to be successful.

7. With COVID-19 what other ways can disability recipients who are not going to be able to go back to work find ways to supplement their income?

  • I think it’s been fantastic for people with disabilities for a variety of reasons. One is that COVID has forced people to go online and some that weren’t online before. Now they’ve had to go online and they might stay there. So creating online jobs is ideal for this marketplace. I was on the phone with GoDaddy earlier today and speaking with one of their service team members, and they’ve remoted everybody now, and they and which they hadn’t before, and that looks like it’s gonna stick after COVID because it’s working so well. Online positions, working from home, is an advantage for people with disabilities and a lot more businesses are doing it. What that has done is it’s created a demand for more home-based workers, large companies that haven’t done it are now doing it or doing more of it. 

8. Is it an especially good time to be involved in an online occupation, or part-time work, something that you can do remotely from home. On your computer?

  • Yeah, and just a few tips for people out there thinking about it. You do need to have some basic tools in place high-speed internet access, a recent computer, typing skills, email management skills, other things like that that you might need. You might want to give some thought to do some practicing up like doing some volunteering or doing something if you’re not able to find your ideal job right away so you can start getting those skills brought up to speed. 

9. What if you’re a senior or elder and are a little intimidated by the computer and might need some type of beginner course and just how to get the basic skills down to operate a computer and to be able to earn a part-time income on the computer?

  • If you are on Social Security Disability there are vocational rehabilitation people that would love to do that. That’s what they’ll do, you go in, they’ll assess you, they’ll find out what you need. So that’s definitely a place to start.

10. If you’re on disability benefits now and you want to get those skills, do they just contact their local social security office to get hooked up with a vocational rehabilitation counselor, or how in actual practice how does that work?

  • You can just open a browser and search for my local Vocational Rehabilitation Center. If you’re working with somebody here at the disability digest on your journey, they’ll point you in the right direction.

” A lot of insurance markets now have become so competitive that they offer a cash back feature by moving to their plan. ” —  Brian Therrien

To find out more about the National Injured Senior Law Center or to set up a free consultation go to or call 855-622-6530


Connect with Brian Therrien:  

Facebook: The Disability Digest Brian Therrien
Website: The Disability
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LinkedIn: Brian Therrien



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Show notes by Podcastologist: Kristen Braun

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