What Are the Rules for Working Part-Time After You're Approved for SSDI or SSI?

You can make about $1,950 a month from part-time work without losing SSI benefits, but your SSI payment will be reduced. But making over $1,550 long-term can be a problem for SSDI.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco
Updated 1/11/2024

Question: Can I Work Part-Time While Receiving SSI?

How much am I able to work and not have my disability benefits stopped? I work some phone order shifts part-time during the holiday rush period, so my pay isn't regular. Some months I make $700, but most months I make nothing. There's no way I could keep it up all year, but when I'm having good days and weeks, I can work a bit.

Answer: Part-Time Work on SSI Can Be Okay

After you're approved for SSI and you've been receiving benefits for a month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer looks at whether you're working over the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount.

But, if you do work part-time and bring in income while you're receiving SSI, Social Security will take money out of your SSI payment. The agency will subtract your "countable income" from your monthly SSI amount (which is $943 per month in 2024, although in some states, the amount is higher).

The good news is that less than half of the income you make by working is counted against you and subtracted from your SSI check. Specifically, Social Security will exclude the first $85 from your income, and then half of the rest of your income.

Social Security uses the information you submit about your income to recalculate your benefit amount each month. You need to report your income to Social Security no later than the 10th day of the month following the month in which you work. Social Security will generally adjust your benefit in the month after that (two months after the earnings were received).

If you underestimate your earnings and you're paid your full SSI amount for several months when you shouldn't have been, Social Security will probably email you about an overpayment. Social Security will take a portion (generally 10%) of your next several monthly payments until the overpayment is paid off.

Note that Social Security only uses the countable income calculations described above for SSI. For Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), the SSA will continue to use the SGA standard for recipients for as long as they receive benefits.

Question: What if I Make Less Working Part-Time than the Trial Work Amount for SSDI?

I was wondering, if I'm receiving SSDI and I begin working part-time, with income under $900 per month, does this affect my disability payments? I've read about the trial work period of nine months, where you can earn over the substantial gainful activity amount. And I read that any month you earn over $1,110, the month is counted toward your nine trial work months.

My question is, what about months when you earn less than $1,110 per month?

I know I will still have to report my earnings, but I'm not sure what would happen if I work and earn under $1,110 each month.

Answer: Consistently Earning Close to SGA Might Raise Questions

You are right in that, once you start collecting Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, you're entitled to nine trial work months where you can make over the amount that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers "substantial gainful activity" (SGA).

Any month in which you make more than $1,110 (in 2024) counts as one of your nine trial work months. (Without the trial work period, in any month you made over the SGA amount, Social Security will consider you able to work and could terminate your benefits.)

You can work part-time without needing to use the trial work period. If you're making only $900 per month, none of those months will count as a trial work month, and this income won't affect your SSDI benefit at all. Technically, you can continue to make that amount indefinitely.

Keep in mind, however, that you still will have to go through continuing disability reviews. Most claims go through a review every one, three, or seven years. During your continuing reviews, Social Security might look at what activities you're doing, especially work activities. If you're working 20 hours per week, say, for an extended period of time, the agency might wonder if you're actually able to work full-time.

That said, not many continuing disability reviews result in the termination of benefits. To end your benefits, Social Security needs to find that your medical condition has improved, and it has improved so much that you are now able to work at the substantial gainful activity level.

Read about the standard that Social Security uses in continuing reviews: the medical improvement standard.

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