A common question I get from my clients is can I work while applying for or while receiving Social Security? The short answer is of course yes but it is important to understand the rules and how they may impact your benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance is only concerned with substantial gainful activity- or SGA. If your income is passive or unearned income such as that from a retirement plan or annuity it will not be counted against you. Supplemental Security Income is a different matter however, any income will affect SSI benefits.
So, what is SGA anyway? SGA is the set amount of income you’re allowed to earn in a month before it will affect your benefits. For the year 2019 SGA is set at $1220 per month minus any disability related work expenses. If you are working and earning above this amount it will have some effect on your claim. A single month of earnings over SGA will have little impact but consistently working above this amount will preclude benefits or lead to your benefits being discontinued. This does not just happen abruptly but in stages. Frist a trial work period would be triggered. A trial work period actually has a lower threshold than SGA. Earned income over $880 will count as a month of trial work and up to 9 such months in a 60-month period are allowable. During a trail work period you can still receive benefits as you would normally.
If you work over your 9-month trial work period you are not eligible to receive benefits for any months you are working and earning over SGA- $1220. There is however a 36-month extended period of eligibility when you are eligible of benefits any month you are not able to work over SGA. For these reasons it is important to contact Social Security and update them with any changes to your work or income. You may be surprised by how much more eligibility you may have! A useful reference from the social security administration can be found at https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf or contact an attorney for help understanding your claim.