What Are the Rules for Working While on Social Security Disability?


I am receiving Social Security disability benefits, but a friend has made me a job offer. It wouldn't be enough to sustain me alone, but I could definitely use the extra income and it's a job I think I could do. How does Social Security handle things like this?


Working while on disability may seem counterintuitive since the purpose of disability benefits is to provide income for people who cannot work. However, in certain circumstances, working is not against Social Security's rules.

First, you are allowed to make less than $1,130 (the SGA level for 2016) per month and still collect Social Security disability benefits, as long as you continue to meet Social Security's definition of disabled. (This answer addresses SSDI; the amount of income you can make and continue to qualify for SSI is different.)

Second, Social Security has programs that allow you to continue to receive disability insurance benefits while encouraging you to try getting back into the workforce. You can attempt to work during something called the "trial work period," which allows you to work for a set period of time with no interruption to your benefits at at all.

You may work for a total of nine months out of a consecutive 60-month period of time and those nine months will count as the trial work period. (If you work nine total months out of five years, even if those nine months aren't all together, you'll have used up your trial period. If you don't get nine months of work in one year, the five year period keeps rolling on until you get nine months of work in within five years.)

At the end of the period, Social Security will assess whether your work has been above the "substantial gainful activity" level. 

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