You can only receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA determines how much you can earn a month while on SSDI without losing it. If you earn more than the SGA while on SSDI, you can lose your benefits.
However, there are exceptions if you decide to go back to work. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), SGA means making more than $1,350 per month in 2022. The limit changes under certain circumstances. For example, if you are blind, the limit is $2,260 per month.
Understanding SSDI Benefits
Even though you’ve paid into the Social Security system your entire career, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from following the rules and procedures set by the SSA. If you still choose to earn money while receiving benefits, know that there is some risk involved, and managing your income and your benefits can be a hassle if you’re not sure of what you’re doing.
As stated above, SSDI benefits are for those that can no longer work or gain any significant amount of income. Therefore, as long as you earn less than the threshold each month, you should still be able to receive SSDI benefits. The SGA limit depends on each year’s national average wage index and is adjusted yearly.
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The Perspective of the Social Security Administration
The benefits of Social Security, including SSDI, are meant for people who cannot work or who have lived long enough to retire. The SSA wants to ensure that everyone who gets these benefits truly qualifies.
Receiving SSDI is less about your specific disability and more about how it prevents you from working. Thus, the SSA wants to avoid paying out SSDI to people who can still earn enough money.
The SGA, as of 2022, is slightly above what you’d earn under the current Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. If you live in a place with a higher minimum wage, you can easily breach the monthly limit and threaten your SSDI. However, an SSDI lawyer can help you.
Earning Money While Receiving SSDI
If you make less than SGA, you might be able to earn money while on SSDI. However, it’s essential to observe your earnings and report to the SSA. You must immediately tell Social Security if:
- You start or stop working
- Your work hours, duties, or pay change
- You start paying for work-related costs because of your disability
If you have job-related expenses because of your disability, you can probably deduct those costs from your monthly income. Expenses could include specialized equipment, transportation, or counseling. You might earn over the SGA limit and still qualify for benefits if you have high expenses. Just be sure to report any changes to the SSA right away.
You could also lose your benefits if you start earning above SGA while on SSDI. Knowing all the rules and exceptions can be difficult, especially for those with no experience or knowledge of these processes. Talk to a Social Security Disability lawyer about your options if you’re concerned.
Applying for SSDI Benefits While Working
You might be able to get SSDI benefits if you’re already working. However, the fact that you’re working at all could hurt your chances. Review your most recent paychecks carefully. You will certainly need to earn less than the SGA, as SSDI is meant for people who cannot work at all.
Even if you earn less than that amount, the claims examiner might doubt that you’re truly disabled, especially if you work over 15 to 20 hours per week. Social Security Disability lawyers will often advise not to work when applying for SSDI benefits. Besides not earning SGA, you must also meet the following criteria for benefits:
- Have a disabling condition as recognized by the SSA
- Have a disability that has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least a year
- Cannot do any work you used to do or perform new work
- Have paid enough work credits into Social Security through your past wages
Your condition must prevent you from doing necessary actions like walking, lifting things, or remembering. The SSA has a detailed process it will use to evaluate your application.
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Returning to Work While on SSDI
If your condition improves, you find a new way to work, or new medical advances help you feel better, you might want to try returning to work. The SSA offers a trial work period for those who want to try working while disabled.
The trial work period lets you test out working for at least nine months. Here’s how it works:
- A trial work month is any month you earned over $970 in 2022
- If you are self-employed, it’s a trial work month if you make over $970 minus business expenses or work over 80 hours
- During the trial work period, you’ll get your full SSDI benefits
- The trial period will continue until you’ve worked nine trial months within 60 months
The months do not have to be back-to-back. It only matters how many months you earn over the limit within 60 months.
Your Options After the Trial Work Period
After you’ve completed nine trial work periods, the SSA will look over your income history. Your benefits would probably stop if you made over the SGA limit during the trial period. However, if you did not make SGA during the trial, your benefits would likely continue.
If your benefits continue, and you’re still working, you can start an extended eligibility period. During the next 36 months, you can still receive benefits for any month you earn less than the SGA limit.
Social Security Ticket to Work Program Benefits
If you try working while on SSDI, you can get worker benefits through the SSA Ticket to Work program. Benefits include:
- Medicare or Medicaid while you’re working
- Education, training, and rehabilitation
- Job referrals
- Other support for your employment
If you are concerned about trying to earn money while on SSDI, talk to an SSDI lawyer. Your lawyer can help if you’re worried about losing benefits before you know if you can support yourself. You have the right to try earning an income while living with your disability.
What If My Benefits Stop and I Cannot Work Again?
You also have an option for expedited reinstatement. If you become unable to work again because of your disability, you can request benefits back. You have five years after your benefits end to have your benefits reinstated. You will not have to start a new application during this time.
Many people who start on SSDI do come off the program as their injuries heal. This expedited reinstatement plan can help you if your prognosis worsens. Getting approved for SSDI is a hard process, but once you’ve been approved once it’s easier to get benefits later.
Get Legal Help for Your Social Security Disability Benefits
Even though applying and receiving SSDI benefits doesn’t require a lawyer, you may need one if you find that:
- The SSA continually denies your application
- You feel as though the SSDI benefits you receive aren’t enough
- You don’t feel like the money you earn is enough to disqualify you from receiving benefits
- You want to complete your application as thoroughly as possible
While we probably won’t have to go to court for you, that doesn’t mean our Social Security Disability lawyers can’t help. We will represent your best interests at all times and won’t stop until you get the benefits you deserve.
Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer for Free Today
At John Foy & Associates, we have been helping disabled individuals for over 20 years. We can assist you with any part of your SSDI application. If you have questions about working while on SSDI, contact us today.
Working with us is risk-free for you. We do not charge a fee unless we win your case. Plus, the consultation is always 100% risk-free. To schedule your free, no-obligation consultation, call us or contact us online.
Call or text 404-400-4000 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form