Working While On Disability

Can I work while receiving disability benefits?

The short answer is yes, you can receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but the Social Security Administration (SSA) does have certain limits on how much you can earn.

The SSA considers any earned income over $1,350 to be Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), or $2,260 if you are blind, and therefore ineligible for disability benefits. Since this only applies to earned income, income from pension, retirement funds, investment, and dividend income is not counted towards the SGA income limit. Income from Workers' Compensation however can present a conflict with disability benefits.

SSDI Work Incentives

The SSA does offer work incentive programs that allow recipients to earn over the SGA benchmark but still receive benefits. There is also a program where a recipient can go back to work on a trial basis without terminating benefits.

Trial Work Period - SSDI

If you receive SSDI, the SSA offers a nine-month work trial period for where you can work past the SGA limit amount and continue to receive benefits. The purpose of the trial period is to see if you can sustain employment. The nine-month trial period does not have to consecutive, however. Any month where you earn less than $970 is not counted towards the nine-month period. If you are self-employed, any month where you work more than 80 hours is considered one of the nine trial months.

Extended Period of Eligibility

After the nine-month trial work period, there is a 36 month period known as the "Extended Period of Eligibility" in which you will not receive disability payments for any month that you work over the SGA limit of $1,350 (or 2,260 if you are blind). This period is subject to a 3 month grace period in which you will receive payments even if you exceed the SGA limit. Also, for any months that your income falls below the SGA limit, you can still receive full monthly payments on top of the income that you are earning.

Expedited Reinstatement.

After the three-year, extended period of eligibility you will no longer receive benefits if you can continue to work beyond the SGA limits. At this point begins a five-year period in which you can have your benefits reinstated if your disability causes you to have to stop working.

Reporting Your Income and Employment

Whether you receive SSDI or SSI, you must report any work-related information to the SSA such as start and stop dates, as well as changes in your duties, income, hours, or job title. Any changes to your work-related expenses should be reported as well.

SSI Work Programs

For SSI recipients who may be able to work part-time, the SSA offers the Ticket to Work program. This is strictly a voluntary program that offers incentives to people receiving SSI payments to work on a trial basis without losing benefits. The program, administered through Employment Networks, includes incentives such career counseling, planning, and support services as well as the conintuation of your Medicaid benefits if you remain employed. The Trial Work Period, Extended Period of Eligibility, and Expedited Reinstatement all apply to the Ticket to Work program.

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