Ask the Attorney: Can you work and receive social security disability benefits?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Can you work and receive social security disability benefits? This is one of the most common questions asked by folks who are struggling to make ends meet. In this article, we’ll explore income limits (and the real risks of working off the books) and mistakes to avoid during the application process. 

Is it possible to work and receive social security disability benefits at the same time? 

Social Security benefits provide crucial financial support to individuals with disabilities who are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to their impairments. However, the question of whether one can work while receiving Social Security disability benefits is a complex and often misunderstood topic. You see, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the importance of financial independence and self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. That is why they have established programs that encourage beneficiaries to attempt to return to work, provided that they meet certain criteria. The Ticket to Work program, for instance, offers resources and support to disabled individuals aiming to re-enter the workforce.

The key factor in determining whether one can work while receiving Social Security disability benefits is the level of earnings. In 2023, if your monthly earnings exceed $1,350 (or $2,260 if you are blind), then you are considered to be engaging in SGA and may lose your SSDI benefits. However, there are exceptions and additional factors to consider:

  • Trial Work Period: Social Security disability beneficiaries can test their ability to work through a Trial Work Period (TWP) during which they can earn any amount without jeopardizing their benefits. In 2023, a TWP month is defined as one in which you earn more than $940. After using up nine TWP months within a rolling 60-month period, you may still receive benefits for the following 36 months as long as your earnings do not surpass SGA levels.
  • Subsidies and Impairment-Related Work Expenses: Certain work-related expenses and income subsidies may reduce your countable income, making it possible to work while continuing to receive SSDI benefits.
  • Medical Improvement: If your medical condition improves to the extent that you are no longer considered disabled, you may no longer qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

While the idea of working off the books may seem tempting to some Social Security disability beneficiaries, it is crucial to understand the associated risks and potential consequences. For instance, there may be significant legal consequences. Working off the books typically involves underreporting or concealing income from the SSA. This is illegal and can result in serious penalties, including the loss of SSDI benefits, fines, and even criminal charges. Furthermore, regaining benefits after they have been terminated due to working off the books can be a challenging and time-consuming process. The SSA may require you to demonstrate that your disabling condition has worsened significantly, making it even harder to access the support you once received.

Los Angeles Social Security Disability Attorney

While it is possible to work and receive SSDI benefits simultaneously, it is essential to understand the rules and regulations surrounding this issue. To make sure you are clear on these important issues, reach out to the team at Disability Advocates for assistance. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.