Can I Work If I Am On Disability?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

In order to be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. Essentially, this means that you have a disability preventing you from having a job that will support your cost of living. Because of this basic SSDI requirement, many receiving benefits are reluctant to engage in any type of work. The hesitation is understandable. Anything that might jeopardize the continued receipt of these much-needed benefits should be subject to serious consideration. The bottom line is, however, that working will not necessarily disqualify you from receiving SSDI benefits.

Working and Disability

It is possible to work and still receive SSDI benefits. It is important, however, to understand the rules about seeking and obtaining employment without risking the loss of much-needed disability payments. Anyone receiving SSDI must report any of the following to the SSA:

  • The start and end date of any job
  • Any changes to job duties, pay scale, or number of hours worked
  • Any work-related expenses incurred due to your disability
  • The number of your monthly wages

As a general rule, those receiving SSDI benefits cannot engage in employment activities that would constitute “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) and continue to receive benefits. In 2020, SSGA is considered making more than $1,260 per month or, if you are blind, $2,110. There are, however, some exceptions to the SGA rule.

SSDI recipients are granted a trial work period when they are able to make more than the SGA amount without loss of disability benefits. The trial work period is a nine-month period where the SSDI recipient is allowed the opportunity to test their ability to work and will still receive full benefits regardless of whether they are making more than the SGA amount. Once the nine-month trial work period is over, the disability benefit recipient has 36 months to continue receiving SSDI benefits for any month in which he or she has earnings that fall below the SGA level. This means that you will still receive benefits in any month that your total earnings are below $1,260. Should your monthly earnings exceed $1,260, you will not receive a disability benefit payment for that month. This 36-month period is referred to as the “extended period of eligibility.”

If your SSDI benefit payments have stopped after your trial work period because you are earning too much, the SSA gives you five years when you can have your benefits reinstated if you have to stop working due to your disability. During this five-year time frame, you are not required to file a new disability application in order to start receiving disability benefits once again. This is referred to as “expedited reinstatement.”

Social Security Disability Attorney

Trying to work and continue receiving SSDI benefits can be a difficult thing to balance. It is important that you understand the rules and risks as SSDI benefits are often critical to a person meeting basic cost of living needs. The Disability Advocates Group will answer any questions you may have about seeking employment while receiving SSDI benefits. We can also counsel you on the effects of being employed while trying to apply for SSDI benefits. 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.