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Ask Asad Rahman Your Own Question
Asad Rahman
Asad Rahman, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 2185
Experience:  Practicing Attorney with 10 years experience
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I'm a paraplegic on SSDI for 12 years. I've been thinking of

Customer Question

I'm a paraplegic on SSDI for 12 years. I've been thinking of writing a video game. The problem is, sales are completely unpredictable, both amount and timing. I don't want to lose disability because the game brings in more than $10,000. Any suggestions?
JA: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: California
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: I haven't even started yet.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No, that's it.
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Asad Rahman replied 1 month ago.

Thanks for reaching out with your question. Do you receive state of federal disability benefits?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I'm on federal social security disability. I think the limit on income is around $1000/mo. I can go off disability for a "trial work" period and not lose Medicare, but only for 9 months. My concern with this game project is that it produces enough income to keep me off disability, but not enough to live on. Most independently produced games have a month or two of sales, and then drop to a trickle of income.I can think of some approaches -- I could find a partner, let him own the game, and then invoice him monthly until I've extracted the entire income from the game. This seems like a blatant attempt to avoid SS income limits however. A second approach would be to go off disability, but after a few months, stop income from the game somehow (sell it to a partner, perhaps), and then back on disability.I just don't know what approach would work. I'm not trying to hide income, just earn a bit extra and spread it out over time. My rent keeps going up here, and SS payments haven't gone up significantly in years.
Expert:  Asad Rahman replied 1 month ago.

I completely understand. Some of the scenarios you described make perfect sense. You should try to seek the opportunity to make money that exceeds what ssdi pays anyway. You can set up a company with another investor and he simply pay you royalties into a trust. I would recommend talking to an attorney who specializes in estate planning and/or intellectual property law locally would be a good step.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I've read conflicting advice on royalties. Sometimes it's counted as earned income, and other times not. What is their criteria?
Expert:  Asad Rahman replied 1 month ago.

The SS website indicates that royalties from work you created do not count in the income earnings test. https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.18/handbook-1812.html

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Section W is what you are referring to? That says the work must be created before the person goes on disability. That would not apply here. If I sold the game to someone, does section M apply (sale of property) or does that only refer to real estate?
Expert:  Asad Rahman replied 1 month ago.

Your intellectual property could be considered a capital asset .

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Obviously this is not a simple matter, or I would have found advice about it with Google. And if it were possible to live on disability and still create new works and sell them, many authors would be doing it. I think I will have to go off disability during the period I have income. They claim that you will be automatically reinstated if you tell them you cannot work any more after the trial period. Do you know if this is how it really works?
Expert:  Asad Rahman replied 1 month ago.

But basically if that income ran dry you would have to reapply and be designated by your medical provider to be unable to work again which may not be very easy a 2nd time.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
That's what I'm worried about. I would qualify easily for disability (I use a wheelchair), but the wait period for Medicare is 2 years. Reading the Social Security site though, it says trial work is not considered evidence that disability has ended. https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/twp.html
Expert:  Asad Rahman replied 1 month ago.

I may not be the best person to assist here with this important decision. Let me opt out so a more knowledgable expert can assist.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
OK, thanks for your help. Do I need to do anything to be connected to a new expert?