Working While on Disability: Earnings, Common Questions & More

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are income assistance programs overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), designed to offset some of the financial challenges associated with being disabled, elderly, and economically disadvantaged.

However, oftentimes, these benefits alone are not entirely sufficient to meet an individual’s needs, leading many to question whether you can work while on disability. Of special concern for SSDI and SSI beneficiaries is whether or not they can work and continue to receive full monthly benefits.

The short answer to these questions is yes. However, just like working while on workers’ compensation, there are specific eligibility criteria and rules related to each respective program that must be adhered to in order to ensure the continued provision of benefits while working.

Working While on Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a wide range of work incentive programs designed to allow Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) beneficiaries to test their ability to re-enter the workforce and supplement the financial assistance they receive from the SSA with additional income while continuing to receive their monthly benefits.

These programs include the Trial Work Period (TWP), the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE), and Ticket to Work Program. Each of these programs has special rules and guidelines related to the amount of income an individual can earn, the expenses they can deduct from their net income, and their continued eligibility.

How Much Money Can I Earn While on SSDI in 2019?

The amount of money an individual on SSDI can earn is largely determined by an annually adjusted SSA monthly earnings benchmark known as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Generally speaking, SGA acts a threshold, for which if broken, may disqualify beneficiaries from receiving further SSDI benefits.

In 2019, the SGA earnings threshold was $1220/month (or $2040/month for blind beneficiaries). This means that in order to maintain SSDI benefits (absent a work incentive program) an individual receiving SSDI may earn up to $1219 per month ($2039 per month if blind) and continue to receive full benefits.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. The effect and impact of SGA on an individual’s SSDI benefits are primarily dependent upon the type of work incentive program they are enrolled in (if any) and whether or not they have previously completed a work incentive program.

SSDI Trial Work Period (TWP)

The SSDI Trial Work Period (TWP) is a work incentive program that allows SSDI recipients to test their ability to return to work while continuing to collect their full monthly SSA benefits.

All SSDI beneficiaries are eligible for one Trial Work Period, so long as they:

For already employed beneficiaries, Trial Work Periods allow them to work and earn as much money as possible over a non-consecutive nine-month period (during a 60-month, five-year rolling eligibility term) without jeopardizing their SSDI benefits.

Eligible Trial Work Period months are determined by an SSA earnings trigger known as the Trial Work Level (TWL). The TWL for 2019 is $880, meaning that in any month where an individual enrolled in a TWP earns $880 or more, that month is counted towards their nine-month TWP total.

SSDI Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)

After successfully completing a TWP, SSDI recipients are entered into a 36-month long Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE), where (for the first time) their earnings will have an effect on the distribution of SSDI benefits.

Individuals enrolled in an EPE will continue to receive full SSDI benefits for every month they earn less than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) threshold of $1220 (or $2040 for blind recipients) for 2019.

Working While on SSI Benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries are able to work and continue to receive their monthly benefits so long as their earnings, coupled with any additional income sources, do not exceed SSI income limits set by the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) and state supplement limits.

SSI beneficiaries may also see their benefits reduced as a result of earnings that do not exceed SSI income limits.

How Much Money Can I Earn While on SSI in 2019?

SSI earnings limits for 2019 (based on FBR) are $771 per month for an individual and $1,157 per month for a couple. An individual earning an amount above the SSI earnings limit will not be eligible for SSI benefits for that month.

Additionally, the SSA also has an income limit related to the reduction of SSI benefits, of $85. The SSA does not count the first $85 of an individual’s monthly gross income, yet every dollar earned in excess of $85 will result in a reduction of SSI benefits of $0.50.

SSDI and SSI Ticket to Work Program

SSDI and SSI beneficiaries who are interested in working, yet are unable to perform the duties of any of their previous jobs, are eligible for free vocational training, schooling and rehabilitation through the SSA Ticket to Work Program.

Reporting Requirements (Working While on Disability)

Regardless of the program, both SSDI and SSI beneficiaries are required to report any and all work-related activity to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Work activity includes:

  • The start and stop date of any position (new or old)
  • Total monthly income (if applicable)
  • Any changes related to work duties, income, and hours worked/schedule to work
  • Any and all work-related expenses resulting from the disability for which an individual receives SSA benefits

Questions About Working While Receiving Social Security Disability?

The highly qualified and dedicated team of Social Security Disability attorneys at Krasno, Krasno, & Onwudinjo is here to answer any questions you may have regarding working while on Social Security Disability, work incentive programs, or any other related topics. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today via email or call us at (844) 243-4849 or toll-free at 877-794-2396.

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