Can I Receive Disability While Working?

Our Tulsa Disability Lawyers Discuss How Income Could Affect Payments

Individuals wanting to work who currently receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be concerned about their ability to rejoin the workforce. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a number of programs that can allow those on SSI or SSDI to return to work without, or without immediately, losing disability payments. Understanding whether your employment qualifies as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is crucial when determining if you can continue receiving disability while working, of if working will drastically affect or end these benefits.

Understanding SSDI Benefits and Working

The rules for SSI differ from the rules for SSDI. Typically, those receiving SSDI cannot continue receiving benefits if they start participating in SGA. The administration encourages SSDI recipients to return to work if able. In fact, it provides a number of safety nets to help you do so, including:

  • Trial Work Period. This enables you to test the waters to see if you can work. During the trial work period, you continue to receive your full monthly SSDI payment. This means if you find you are unable to work, your benefits will continue uninterrupted. You are entitled to nine trial work months over a 60-month period. In 2017, the SSA defined a trial work month as any month in which a person earned more than $840 in wages or net self-employment income or worked more than 80 hours in his or her own business.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility. Once you exhaust your trial work months, you will have an extended period of eligibility for 36 months. During this time, you can work and still receive SSDI benefits for any month you do not have “substantial” earnings. The SSA defined substantial earnings as more than $1,170 per month or $1,950 for the blind. However, these numbers vary from year to year. The SSA typically deducts disability-related work expenses, such as counseling services and special transportation, from your earnings.
  • Expedited Reinstatement. Once your SSDI benefits stop due to substantial gainful activity, you are eligible for expedited reinstatement for the next five years.