Jan 9

Working While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits – Is it Possible?

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Earning Social Security Disability benefits while working–it is often asked, “Can I work and still receive SSD benefits?” The answer to that question depends on multiple factors but once you understand the guidelines, the answer is quite clear.

To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in what is called substantial gainful activity or SGA because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment. By Social Security’s definition, substantial gainful activity means work that (a) involves doing significant and productive physical or mental duties; and (b) is done (or intended) for pay or profit. Activities involving self-care, household tasks, unpaid training, hobbies, therapy, school attendance, clubs, social programs, etc., are not generally considered to be SGA.

The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA for non-blind individuals for 2012 is $1,010.00 per month. In the case of a pending claim (disability application), you can work as long as your earnings do not exceed the earnings threshold for the SGA limit of $1,010.00 per month. If your gross monthly earnings exceed this amount, your claim will be denied because it is the Social Security Administration’s position that if you can make over $1,010.00 per month, you are not functionally limited enough to be considered disabled. The same applies to those who are already receiving Title II benefits or straight social security disability insurance; however, SSA also offers recipients the opportunity to try working for more money without necessarily giving up their benefits altogether.

The Social Security Administration has developed what is called a trial work period or TWP. The TWP allows you to test your ability to work for a full 9 months – those months do not need to be consecutive and can occur any time within a 36 month period. During your TWP, you will receive full SSDI benefits regardless of how high your earnings might be as long as you report your work activity and you have a disabling impairment. (Stay tuned for our next blog article regarding the TWP)

Now bear in mind that SSA manages two programs that provide benefits based on disability; SSDI (social security disability insurance) which is based on your earnings, and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) which is based on limited income and resources and not your work history. If you are receiving straight SSI benefits, what you receive in monthly benefits may be reduced by a certain amount based on how much you are earning. Therefore, if you are making close to the SGA amount of $1,010.00, your monthly benefit check will be significantly reduced.

One of the most important things to remember when receiving or applying for social security disability benefits and attempting to work is to keep the social security office or your disability representative up to date on any work activity; whether it is substantial or not. Being surprised at the hearing is never good.


If you need help with your Social Security Disability claim, contact Attorney Matthew Noyes. Attorney Matthew Noyes and his staff have been able to secure SSD benefits for those who have been denied. Click here to schedule a free case consultation.

  1. Marshall-
    Glad to see you have a desire to go back to school. Social Security gives you opportunities to try to return to the workforce without penalty to you. Read my later blog article at http://matthewnoyes.typepad.com/attorney_matthew_noyes_bl/2012/02/social-security-disability-benefits-and-trial-work-periods-count-your-months.html for more information about this.

  2. Marshal 19 Feb 2013 | reply

    Hello, my name is Marshsl I am 26 years old and had a stroke two and a half years ago. I can walk and talk thanks to extensive physical therapy, but my right hand is messed up and has limited strength. I am currently attending school full time, but get bored with doing homework and sitting around all day…my SSDI is $944.43, hardly enough to pay for rent and food.
    My question to you sir(s) and/or Ma’am(s) is if I do start working again, say at Apple, their base wage is 13/hr. how many hours before my ssdi is completely cut off, halved, or not affected at all?
    Thank you and god bless.

  3. What are you feelings on dentist disability insurance? I want to make sure I am covered but don’t want to fork over all sorts of money until I have weighed the pros and cons. I would love to hear your opinion.

  4. Richard-
    Typically, the SSA looks at when the money comes in. Thus, if you earned the money in May, but you didn’t receive the money until June, the money will count for June. Be careful not to get too close to the $1010 limit–it could negate your benefits.

  5. Richard Rogers 15 Jun 2012 | reply

    DOS SSDI go by when you get payed or your pay period, because some of my pay period,s overlap and it looks like I earn more then I’m alllowed, thay tell me that I cannot make over $1000 I’m legally permanent and parcel can you help me out with some advice please.
    Richard Rogers.

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