Many people who qualify for Social Security Disability benefits continue to work for a variety of reasons. You might enjoy your work, wish to supplement your disability income as much as allowable, or wish to gradually return to work to keep your skills up to date for an eventual return to full-time employment.
Whatever your reason for working, you might be concerned about how much you can make while on disability without putting your disability benefits at risk. The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows trial work periods and imposes income limits that define how much you can earn while still receiving the benefits you are entitled to collect.
The SSA uses more than your income to determine your employment earnings limitations. They also calculate and deduct job-related expenses that come with your employment.
You can hire a lawyer to represent you throughout the benefits application or appeals process. They may help you determine your earning capacity and its effect on your monthly benefits.
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How Much Can You Earn While on Disability?
The SSA provides recipients and potential recipients with an online benefits calculator. With the SSDI eligibility calculator, you can estimate the amount of current and future monthly benefits you might be able to receive.
SSA guidelines may also allow you to work on a trial basis to determine your ability to return to gainful employment. If you earn more than $1,350 per month in 2022, the SSA considers this substantial income. This is the amount you can earn before jeopardizing your disability benefits. If you receive disability due to blindness, your earnings cap is $2,260 in 2022.
Called substantial gainful activity (SGA), these amounts also take your work expenses into account. It also increases most years and allows you to take deductions prior to making calculations that determine your income. For example, you may be able to take the following deductions:
- Prescription copayments
- Necessary counseling services
- Transportation to and from work
- Necessary personal attendants
- Wheelchair or other assistive devices
These and other allowable deductions can mean the income you earn from gainful employment lets you enjoy the benefits of working while also receiving the disability benefits.
You can review your benefits, employment income, and allowable deductions with your lawyer, who can help ensure your willingness to work does not put your benefits at risk.
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Types of Earnings That Impact Your SSD Benefits
It’s important to consider the types of income that qualifies as substantial gainful activity for the SSA. Generally, the agency only looks at “earned” income. Earned income includes the money you make while working as a:
- Self-employed worker
All the funds earned in these positions apply towards your monthly limit for SSD benefits. However, you may earn income outside of these more traditional methods. For example, you may earn money by:
- Buying rental properties
- Selling your assets
- Investing in the stock market
How many assets you can have and still claim Disability depends on whether you are filing for SSI or SSDI.
Counting Income and the SSI Program
The SSA also administers the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This program provides funding for individuals who are over the age of retirement, blind, or disabled if they have limited resources and income.
The SSI program provides compensation even if you never worked or paid into the Social Security system. While it aligns with SSD in many ways, the SSA uses different regulations on allowable earnings for this program.
Under the SSI program, you may earn up to $1,600 a month and still receive some benefits. However, if you earn anything over $65 a month, the SSA starts to reduce the monthly compensation they offer through the SSI program.
The SSA reduces your SSI payment by half of your earned income minus $65 every month. For example, let’s say you earned $1,065 a month while on SSI. The SSA subtracts $65 and then divides $1,000 by half, leaving you with $500.
The SSA then subtracts the $500 from your SSI monthly payment, which would be $794 in 2021. Therefore, you would receive $294 for your SSI payment at that level of compensation from your job.
Qualify and Apply for Disability Benefits
According to the SSA, you should qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits if:
- Your previous employment participated in the Social Security program
- Your medical condition meets SSA’s definition of medical or mental disability
In addition to these two criteria, you must have a disability that prevents you from participating in your previous form of employment. Your disability must prevent you from adjusting to or accepting other forms of employment. Finally, your disability must be expected to have a duration of at least one year or be expected to result in death.
If you meet these criteria, SSA administrators may then use a step-by-step process to determine your eligibility. You may be asked the following five questions:
- Are you working?
- Is your disability severe?
- Is your condition on the disability list?
- Can you do the work you did previously?
- Can you do any other type of work?
SSA administrators also consider your disability, age, education, previous work experience, and other factors. Special conditions may apply if you are blind, have low vision, or are the surviving spouse of a qualified worker, a disabled child, or a veteran. Speak to your lawyer about how these conditions might affect your eligibility for benefits.
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Include These Documents with Your Application
According to the SSA, your disability application must include:
- Your Social Security number
- Proof of your age
- List of required medications
- Complete medical records
- All laboratory and test results
- Most recent W-2 form
- Most recent federal tax return
You should also include information needed to contact your doctors, caseworkers, and all hospitals and clinics where you received care. Include the dates of your visits and any other relevant information.
Our legal team can collect these documents from you to complete your application.
Returning to Work While on SSD
If you decide to return to work while on SSD, you may apply for the Ticket to Work program. This program allows you to try a new job or return to your old position. You begin the program by notifying your Social Security office that you plan to return to work.
The SSA provides you with a Ticket to Work. After this, you can look for and secure a job. Ensure that you report all your earnings properly to the SSA.
If you do not report your intention to return to work, the SSA may cancel your disability benefits when you receive your first paycheck.
Get Legal Assistance When You Need It Most
Our team is committed to helping Social Security Disability applicants navigate the complex claims process. We also work hard to ensure a return to employment does not jeopardize your benefits. Your lawyer can help you determine how much you can make while on disability without having to risk losing your benefits.
Get legal assistance when you need it most by contacting Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC.