You can work while on disability. Whether you can work and what earnings you can have while claiming disability is determined by which benefits you receive and other factors. So, what do you do if you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits but wish to work to augment your income or for other reasons?
Fortunately, Social Security offers a program with several benefits that can help participants develop work skills, locate a job, and try working at that job for a trial period.
Working on SSDI vs. SSI
Per the Social Security Administration (SSA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients are not allowed to partake in substantial gainful activity (SGA) while continuing to receive benefits. Moreover, a person earning more than a certain monthly amount (about $1,350 in 2022) is ordinarily regarded as engaging in SGA, and therefore, this will impact disability payments.
Of note, this amount usually increases every year. However, the SGA limit no longer applies if you’ve been approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). With SSI, you are allowed to work and continue receiving benefits.
However, your earnings and other resources don’t exceed the Social Security Administration’s income limit for SSI. Your monthly benefit payment will be decreased, however, based on the income you report.
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The Ticket To Work Program
The Ticket to Work program offers special rules that allow individuals receiving benefits to work and still be given their monthly payments. If you find you can’t continue working due to your disability, the SSA can reinstate your benefits.
Program incentives include the following:
- Cash benefits will continue for a time after you start working
- Medicare/Medicaid benefits continue while you work
- Assistance with education, training, and rehab to begin a new career
- Job referrals and other employment support
Also, you won’t be asked to undergo medical exams while using the program and making progress in your return to work plan. Specifically, the following is a summary of what you can expect if you decide to return to work:
Trial Work Period
There is a nine-month trial work period that allows you to assess your working capabilities. You’ll receive your full disability benefits during this period, regardless of how much you’re earning.
You only need to inform the SSA you are working and continue to experience a disability. In 2022, a trial work month is a month in which your income is more than $970 and continues until you have worked nine total trial work months within 60 months.
Extended Eligibility Period
After your trial period, you have three years during which you can work, earn money, and still receive payments for any months your income isn’t higher than or equal to SGA.
If your benefits end due to substantial earnings, you have up to five years to ask the SSA to restore your benefits. This applies if you’re unable to continue working due to your health condition. After that, you probably won’t have to file a new application or wait for your benefits to restart while they review your medical status.
Disability-Related Work Expenses
If you are working and have a disability, you may require certain items, equipment, or services to assist you. For example, you may need to take a taxicab, paratransit, special bus, or another type of transportation to work because of your medical condition. The SSA may be able to subtract expenses such as these from your monthly earnings before they determine if you’re still eligible for benefits.
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How Earnings Affect Social Security Benefits
During the trial period, there are no limitations on what you earn. During the 36-month extended eligibility period, however, your benefits will end if you make enough to qualify as having SGA, which, as noted, is around $1,350 a month, or $2,260 if you are blind. In addition, as stated above, work expenses due to your disability will be deducted when SSA calculates your earnings.
Some of your work-related expenses may include the costs of services or equipment you need to work but that are also helpful in your day-to-day life, such as the following:
- Copays for prescription medications
- Counseling services
- Work transportation
- A personal attendant
- A wheelchair
- Specialized work equipment
You can work while on disability. However, if you have significant earnings, you may request that the SSA withhold your cash benefits to avoid being overpaid while your income is being reviewed.
What To Report if You Receive Disability Benefits
Suppose you are receiving benefits for a disability. In that case, you or your representative should contact the Social Security Administration by phone, mail, or in-person right away if any of the following occur:
- You start or stop working
- You reported your work, but your hours, duties, or pay rate changes
- You start paying expenses for working due to your disability
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Working While Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
If you are receiving SSI, earnings from your work each month will be subtracted from the monthly benefits you receive. The SSA will discount the first $65 earned plus one-half of the remaining amount of your monthly earnings.
As of 2022, the federal benefit amount and the “countable income” limit are both $841. Moreover, the SSA will subtract your benefits by the amount of your countable income.
Contact a Disability Attorney’s Team That Can Answer Your Questions
If you need help filing a disability claim, determining whether or not you can work and still receive benefits, or have any other questions or concerns about the SSDI or SSI process, don’t hesitate to contact Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC today! We can discuss how much you can earn while collecting SSD and how much you might receive monthly.