Working on Social Security Disability

by admin on July 1, 2017 · Working on Disability


If you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, (Not SSI) you can work as long as your pre-tax earnings stay below the prescribed limits. (If you receive SSI benefits the rules are different for you; refer to our section on working while receiving SSI payments.) This means you can work and supplement your Social Security check, possibly even get health insurance without worrying about Social Security cutting off your Disability benefits.

The catch is you have to be very careful and monitor your monthly gross income so that you do not go over the limits. If you do go over the limit, Social Security could place you in what they call “Disability Cessation” due to your earnings. If this happens to you they will stop your monthly check and could charge you a hefty overpayment by backdating the time your record went into “Disability Cessation.”Disability Insurance

How do you safely work and keep your benefits? Always keep your earnings below the pre-tax limit; in 2006 this pre-tax limit is $860 per month. (If you are blind this amount is higher: $1,450 per month.) This $860 amount is what Social Security refers to as “Significant Gainful Activity” or SGA. If you are working and earning over this SGA amount Social Security figures you can work full time just like everyone else and don’t need Disability payments.

Understand that this SGA amount ($860 for 2006) is the upper limit for your earnings. There is another amount that Social Security tracks when it comes to your earnings. This amount is called a “Trial Work Month.” When you receive Social Security Disability benefits you are eligible for 9 Trial Work Months every five years. A “Trial Work Month” is any month that your earnings are higher than $620 pre-tax. ($620 is amount for 2006)

Trial work months are unique because you can earn any amount you like; these months are not subject to the SGA limit. For example, if you went over the limit one month and earned $1200, you’re still okay because Social Security will count this month as a trial work month. (As long as you haven’t used them all up, remember you only get 9 every 5 years) You can use your trial work months as a safety cushion if you go over the $860 limit. Don’t make a habit of going over because if you use up all your trial work months Social Security will evaluate your disability and could stop your benefits.

To be safe, never earn over the $860 limit. You will use up all of your trial work months doing this; however, Social Security will not stop your benefits or charge you a hefty overpayment. Remember that all of the dollar amounts quoted here are pre-tax amounts; this is before anything is deducted from your gross earnings. As soon as you start working be sure and notify Social Security by calling their toll-free number.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

sonya myers November 11, 2008 at 4:13 pm

It is now 2008, november and I am working I am legally blind and have looked at the website for my earnings limits. I am concerned about two things, my employer has promised me a reduction in hours prior to my work trial period ending date sot hat I will still qualify for benefits, I am earning $11.05 an hr. right now and working 40 hrs. weekly. My concern is that I have put a life partner on my health insurance plan, because he is not a spouse and is a life partner, the amount I pay AND the amount that the employer pays for his health insurance is post tax (not pre tax as me and my children), so they add like $300 bi weekly to my gross income then deduct that amount with my deductions so that I will pay taxes on the amounts they pay, this will increase my gross ncome over the limit even if I go down to 32 hours a week. I am not sure if they will deduct that or count it? Also I am concerned aobut asking them about it, at this point I am not married and do not plan on it, we can’t afford to marry unfortunately, so if I bring up a “life partner” is social security going to start asking for his income to calculate my eligibility in this new age? Thanks

Lori Mingo November 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm

I wonder what is the limit of earning I can earn while I am on Social Security Disability in 2009? I want to know so I will not go over the limit. Please let me know soon because I would like to look part time job that will not earn that much.

Martha December 7, 2009 at 6:01 pm

I have a friend that is marry and received SSDI and SSI how much do the spouse can
Earn as self employed and keep their benefits?

pablo e April 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

l am significantly disabled with a brain injury and broken shoulders etc. and have to use a wheelchair and have been receiving ssdi since 1991. l have managed to acquire and maintain a small part time job. with the employers assistance in providing reasonable accomodations w/hours worked and duties required.
however, on two occaisions l have exceeded $1000.00 a month due to bonuses. normally, l am only able to work 4 hour shifts and earn $650.00 monthly. should l be concerned over loosing my ssdi benfits?

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