Can you work while receiving disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the two main financial relief programs on offer to disabled Americans, both of which place limits on the recipient’s income.

Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI) is allocated along with the rest of the Social Security benefits for retired Americans. In April 2022 the number of disabled Americans benefitting from the program was more than 9 million. Another program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), provides support for disabled people in the United States and recorded a total of 7.6 million monthly recipients.

But what if you are disabled and are considering a gradual return to the workplace? Will you lose your Social Security benefits as soon as you set foot in an office? We take a look…

Can you work while claiming Social Security disability insurance?

For most SSDI recipients there is a pretty simply calculation for earnings that would mean you are no longer able to receive disability benefits. The SSA employs a substantial gainful activity threshold, which puts a numerical figure on the point after which you stop getting benefits.

In 2022 the monthly limit for most disabled people is $1,350; if you earn less than that each month then you can continue to receive SSDI support. One key exception is for blind people, for whom the substantial gainful activity limit is upped to $2,260 per month. Any disability-related work expenses can be deducted from your monthly earnings.

If you want to go back to work on a preliminary basis but don’t want to risk losing your benefits, the trial work period allows you to do exactly that. For the nine-month trial period you can test your ability to return to the workplace without losing a single cent of SSDI benefitsregardless of whether you exceed the substantial gainful activity limit.

Can you work while claiming Supplemental Security Income?

While SSDI is a program specifically designed to provide support for all disabled Americans, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) has a slightly broader remit. SSI is available for disabled or blind Americans, but also to older people who satisfy certain conditions.

Unlike the strict financial limits mentioned earlier, SSI benefits are simply lowered slightly for every dollar that the recipient earns. The maximum amount on offer is based on the federal benefit rate (FBR), which in 2022 is $841 per month for individuals and $1,261 for couples.

To receive SSI your countable monthly income cannot be higher than the FBR. However for SSI recipients only half of every dollar earnt on a monthly basis is counted as your earnings. This means that you can continue to claim SSI benefits as long as your monthly income is below $1,682.

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