Can You Work While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits?

You can make a small amount of income while collecting disability benefits, but how much depends on whether you get SSDI or SSI benefits.

By , Contributing Author
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How much you can earn while on disability is different for individuals currently getting SSDI (Social Security disability insurance) benefits and those getting SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits. For a discussion of how much you can work when first applying for benefits, see our section on working and eligibility for Social Security disability. This article is about how working affects people who are currently receiving SSDI benefits and how working affects people who are currently receiving SSI benefits.

How Much Can You Make While on SSDI?

Generally, SSDI recipients can't do what's considered "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) and continue to receive disability benefits. In a nutshell, doing SGA means you're working and making more than $1,470 per month in 2023 (or $2,460 if you're blind). So that's how much you can make in 2023 without affecting your disability benefits. And, you can deduct disability-related work expenses from your earnings, so you can actually make more than $1,470. For more information, see our article on SSDI income limits.

What Are Disability-Related Work Expenses?

If, because of your disability, you have certain work-related expenses that a non-disabled person wouldn't have, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will deduct these costs from your monthly earnings when calculating your benefits. Examples of qualifying expenses include special transportation needs, computer support services, or counseling services. These are called impairment-related work expenses, or IRWE.

Does Social Security Let You Keep SSDI While You Go Back to Work?

Yes, to encourage SSDI recipients to go back to work, Social Security allows you to make more than the SGA amount for certain periods of time. SSDI recipients are entitled to a "trial work period" during which they can make more than the SGA amount without losing benefits.

Trial work period. For a nine-month trial work period, you're entitled to test your ability to work and continue to receive full benefits regardless of whether you make more than the SGA amount during that time. For 2023, Social Security considers any month where a person has a monthly income of more than $1,050 to be a trial work month. If you're self-employed, any month where you work more than 80 hours can also be considered a trial work month. There is no limit to the amount of income you can make during these months.

Extended period of eligibility. Once you've completed the nine-month trial work period (the months don't need to be consecutive), you can still receive SSDI for any month where your earnings fall below the SGA level, for a period of 36 months. This three-year period is called the "extended period of eligibility" (EPE). In other words, if you earn less than $1,470 in any month during this period, you will get benefits, but if you earn more than $1,470 in any month, you won't get disability benefits for that month (after a three-month grace period during which you'll continue to get benefits).

Expedited reinstatement. After your EPE, if you're working again, and earning more than the SGA limit, Social Security won't pay you benefits. But you'll have a five-year period during which your benefits can be reinstated if you again stop working because of your disability. During this five-year period, called the "expedited reinstatement period," the SSA won't require you to file a new disability application to get benefits.

For more information, see our article on the trial work period, the extended period of eligibility, and expedited reinstatement.

How Much Can you Make While on SSI Benefits?

After you're approved for SSI, the SGA limit no longer applies to you. (Read about the income limit when you're applying for SSI.)

For SSI recipients, income works a bit differently. You can begin to work and continue to receive SSI benefits as long as your wages and other resources don't exceed the SSA's income limit for SSI; but your monthly benefit amount will be reduced in proportion to your income.

Here's how the SSA reduces your income due to your earnings. The SSI countable income limit is the same as the federal benefit amount (the maximum SSI payment). It's $914 in 2023. But, the SSA will reduce your benefit by the amount of your "countable income." Fortunately, not all of your income is countable income.

Calculating countable income. If your only income is from your job, the SSA doesn't include the first $85 you earn toward your countable income. After taking the $85 adjustment off of your income, the SSA will deduct, from your monthly benefits, 50 cents for every dollar you earn. For example, if you earn $1,000 a month from working, you have $457.50 of countable income.

- $85
= $915
÷ 2
= $457.50

Your monthly SSI benefit amount would be reduced by $457.50. In 2023, that would leave you with an SSI payment of $456.50 ($914 - $457.50.)

You can earn up to about $1,900 a month, if you have no other income, before your SSI benefit is reduced to zero.

State supplemental payments. Your monthly benefit amount is also affected by the amount your state adds to the federal SSI payment, if any. For more information, see our article on how much SSI pays.

Does Social Security Help You Keep SSI While You Go Back to Work?

Yes, Social Security has several programs that encourage SSI recipients to try to go back to work,

Ticket to Work program. Social Security has a program that helps SSI recipients with disabilities to pursue career planning. The program provides free employment support services, including benefits counseling and a continuation of Medicaid benefits if you go back to work. Social Security won't put you through a continuing disability review (to see if you're still disabled) while you're in a Ticket to Work program.

Expedited reinstatement. If your SSI payments stop because you earn too much money (that is, if your countable income is over $914 per month), but you're then forced to quit work again because of your disability, the SSA will reinstate your benefits without the need for a new application (for a period of five years).

Learn more about the Ticket to Work program and other SSI work incentive programs.

Do You Have to Report Your Work to Social Security?

Yes, both SSI and SSDI recipients must report to the SSA:

  • the start and stop date for any job
  • any changes to duties, pay scale, or hours worked, and
  • any work-related expenses they had to pay as a result of their disability.

You must also report the amount of your monthly wages (if any) to the SSA. If you report your wages by telephone, it must be done by the 6th of the next month; if you mail or bring in your paystub to your local SSA, it must be done by the 10th of the next month. SSDI and SSI recipients can now report wages online using their Social Security account, and SSI recipients have an additional option: they can now also report wages with a smartphone app. Social Security's website has more information on telephone wage reporting and online wage reporting.

Also, see our section on reporting changes to Social Security to find out what other changes you may need to report.

What About Working While Your Claim Is Pending?

If you've applied for benefits but haven't yet gotten a decision, be very careful about working. Keep in mind that the mere fact that you're working, even if you are making somewhat less than $1,470 per month, might influence whether a disability claims examiner or a disability judge believes you're disabled, especially if you're working more than 15 or 20 hours a week. For this reason, many disability lawyers and representatives will advise their clients not to work while their claim is pending. For more information, see our article on whether you have to quit work when applying for disability benefits.

Updated December 5, 2022

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