Can I Work While I Receive Social Security Disability?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can work and still receive disability benefits. As you might imagine, however, there are several limitations and caveats. The first major thing to consider is what type of benefits are you receiving, i.e., disability insurance benefits (“DIB” or “SSDI”) or supplemental security income (“SSI”). Let’s start with the first.

If you are receiving SSDI benefits (disability paid to those who have worked enough to be eligible), you can earn up to $880 per month in 2019 (that’s gross, or before taxes, insurance or any other deductions). If you earn more than $880 in a month, that counts as a “Trial Work Month.” There is no limit to how much you can earn during a trial work month. You get 9 trial work months in the 60 months (5 years) after you are found disabled. These do not have to be consecutive (meaning you could earn over $880 one month, then under for 1 or more months, then over again, and that counts as 2 months). Once you have used your 9 months, you have 36 months (3 years) of an “Extended Period of Eligibility.” During these 36 months, you can still receive benefits, if your earnings for that month are not “substantial” (defined as not over $1,220 per month, gross). There are exceptions/modifications to the substantial earnings rule, such as if your work is done under special conditions (i.e., you receive special assistance, or are given extra breaks, etc.). Another exception is if you have “income related work expenses (i.e., you have to pay out of pocket expenses to get to work, for things like special transportation, etc.).

If you are receiving SSI benefits (disability paid to those with limited income and resources), social security will reduce your benefits by your earnings. They will not count the first $85 you earn in the month, but will then reduce your benefits by 50 cents for every dollar you earn. For example, if you earn $500 in a month, they don’t count the first $85, which leaves $415. They then reduce your monthly benefits by half of that, or $207.50. Moreover, if your income, when added to any other resources, exceeds Social Security’s limits, your benefits stop altogether. The resource limits vary from state to state, but generally you cannot have more than $2,000 if you are single, or $3,000 if you are married (they do not count 1 car and they do not count your residence, i.e., house, apartment, trailer as a resource).

Whatever the case, be sure to always contact social security and inform them of the start, end or change related to any work you do.

by Scott Bowers

Written by Scott Bowers

Scott earned his J.D., cum laude, from Capital University Law School and focuses his practice on Social Security Disability law.

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Does Social Security Consider Anything Other Than My Medical Conditions

In order to receive Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must find that you are unable to do a full time job due to your medical conditions. The general rule is that they cannot consider whether someone will hire you, or whether you can find a job. However, because the SSA recognizes that older workers may have more trouble adapting to new types of employment, it will consider factors other than just your medical conditions when you reach a certain age.

The SSA groups disability claimants into 4 basic categories:

  1. Younger individuals (18 through 49)
  2. Closely approaching advanced age (50 to 54)
  3. Advanced age (55 and over), and
  4. Closely approaching retirement age (60 and over)

 

If you are in the first age group, the SSA will not consider you disabled if you are capable of ANY kind of work, including sedentary, unskilled work (i.e., simple jobs that do not require lifting over 10 pounds, or standing/walking for prolonged periods of time). However, if you are in the closely approaching advanced age, you could still be found disabled even if you are able to do sedentary work. At this age category, the SSA decision-maker will look, with the help of a vocational expert (i.e., an expert on jobs and employment related matters), to see whether you have skills that could be used in sedentary work. These skills could come from your education (i.e., a college degree or vocational training), or your past work (i.e., whether you had the power to hire and fire employees, set schedules, or do bookkeeping). If you do have skills, you would be found not disabled. If you do not have skills, you would be found disabled. When you are in the next age categories, you can still be found disabled if you do not have skills that would transfer to light work, even if you are capable of that type of work (i.e., jobs that involve lifting up to 20 pounds, and standing/walking about half the day, and sitting the other half).

There are also other ways to prove that skills are not transferable, even if you do have them. One way is if you have a severe psychological condition that would prevent you from doing skilled work. Due to the complicated nature of these rules, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced disability attorney to help you navigate this complex system.

 

By Scott J. Bowers

Written by Scott Bowers

Scott earned his J.D., cum laude, from Capital University Law School and focuses his practice on Social Security Disability law.

View all author posts →