Can I Work While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits?


One of the key eligibility requirements for receiving Social Security disability benefits is that you must be unable to earn above a certain amount. Your inability to earn above this stipulated amount is used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine that you are disabled. You also need to meet other qualifying requirements which a Social Security lawyer can explain to you.

If you start earning above a designated limit, your disability benefits may discontinue. This is why it is important to understand how the income you earn impacts your SSI and SSDI benefits.

Impact of Earnings on SSI Benefits

SSA defines a benefit amount every year for SSI benefits. For 2021, the benefit amount for SSI disability recipients has been set at $794 per month for individual recipients and $1,191 for couples. When you earn monthly wages, SSA will reduce this benefit amount in proportion to the amount of money you earn.

For instance, suppose you start earning a monthly wage of $1,500 as an SSI benefits recipient. SSA will not consider the first $85 you earn as a part of your wage. In addition, if you have to face work-related expenses due to your disability, these will be deducted from your monthly wage calculation. For the rest of the amount, SSA will deduct 50 cents from your benefits for every dollar you earn.

Considering the example above, if you earn $1,500, the first $85 will not be counted. This leaves us with $1,415. Suppose you have to use special work arrangements to cater to your disability, costing you around $200 per month. These will also be reduced from your wage calculation, leaving us with $1,215. For each dollar in this amount, SSA will reduce 50 cents from your benefits. So for $1,215, SSA will reduce your SSI benefits by $607.

Using this formula, you can earn up to $1,670 in 2021 before your SSA benefits are reduced to zero. However, if you are unable to later continue your work and have to quit within five years, you will be eligible to start receiving SSI benefits once again without the need for a new application.

Impact of Earnings on SSDI Benefits

SSA uses a concept known as Substantial Gainful Activity, or SGA, to determine whether you are making a meaningful monthly wage. The agency sets a threshold limit for SGA every year. For 2021, monthly SGA is $1,310 for non-blind persons and $2,190 for blind persons.

When you earn a wage above this amount in a month, you have essentially engaged in SGA. As per SSA rules, you can earn above SGA limit and continue receiving disability benefits. However, the agency has programs in place which let you transition through this period.

When you first start earning wages as an SSDI benefits recipient, you become a part of the trial work program. During a period of 36 months, any month you earn above $910 is counted as a trial work month. Once you have earned above $910 for nine months within the 36-month period, your status as a disability benefits recipient changes.

At the end of the nine months, SSA determines whether you are earning above the SGA limit. If you are found to be earning above SGA, the extended period of eligibility begins. During this period, SSA reviews your status on a month-to-month basis. If you earn above SGA in a given month, you don’t receive the SSDI check. During the months you earn below the SGA limit, you still get the SSDI check.

The extended period of eligibility continues for 36 months. After this period, your SSDI benefits stop the first month your income is above the SGA. However, you still have the option of having your benefits reinstated if you have to stop working due to your disability within the next five years. This is known as Expedited Reinstatement.

Why Hire a Greenville Social Security Lawyer?

If you are seeking disability benefits as an applicant in Greenville, SC, or if you want to know how your earnings will impact your current disability checks, it is important to consult a reliable lawyer. As noted above, the formulas used to calculate your countable earnings and the way these impact your benefits can be complicated.

Here at the Robert Surface Law Firm, we help you file a new application, appeal a rejection, or seek to have your benefits reinstated. We also work with you through all aspects of a disability benefits application. Our lawyers break down the process for you so that you can fully understand it. Call us today to discuss your benefits claim with our lawyers.