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I Can Work While Receiving Social Security Disability Income? How Much Can I Make?

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is a monthly payment provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid to disabled individuals who are unable to work for a living wage. To receive SSDI you must have a qualifying work history and your disability must meet the SSA’s definition of disability, which in summary means that your condition is severe enough to significantly limit your ability to work for at least 12 months.

These benefits can be easily confused with Social Security Income (SSI), but SSDI and SSI are different. SSI is available for people who are medically disabled, much like SSDI, but these individuals do not have sufficient work history to qualify for SSDI benefits. SSI is an income and asset based system and the rules regarding whether you can work and earn an income is different for SSI than it is for SSDI.

Am I Allowed to Work While Receiving SSDI?

To put it simply, yes but with limits. There are special rules that allow recipients to work for additional income while receiving SSDI, but there is a limit to how much money you make while receiving benefits. For non-blind individuals, the income limit is $1,470 per month in 2023, and for blind individuals, the limit is $2,460 per month. This amount changes every year, so be sure to stay in touch with an attorney to make sure you have the most up-to-date numbers.

This earnings limit is called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). If you are earning above SGA, your disability is not considered severe enough to keep you from making a living, and you will therefore no longer be eligible for SSDI benefits. If you are working and earning an income while receiving SSDI benefits, you are obligated to notify SSA if you earn over SGA in any given month.

There are ways to receive income outside of traditional work that do not contribute to your SGA. These include:

  • Child support
  • Investments
  • Interest
  • Spouse’s income

Also, if you have job-related expenses due to your disability, such as transportation or specialized equipment, you can deduct those costs from your monthly income. So, these expenses will not count toward your SGA.

If you previously lost your benefits due to income, but the circumstances of your job change, you may qualify for your SSDI benefits again. You or your attorney should notify the SSA immediately if you:

  • Start a new job
  • Quit or lose your job
  • Have a change in duties, hours or pay
  • Start paying expenses for work because of your disability (ex. additional training)

Can I Apply for SSDI If I’m Currently Working?

Yes, you can apply for SSDI benefits if you’re working and earning less than SGA—but the fact that you're working may hurt your chances of being granted benefits. The SSA may doubt if you’re truly disabled. Your disability or condition must cause you to spend substantial time away from work or be preventing you from successfully completing necessary job functions such as lifting heavy objects, standing for extended periods of time or remembering job responsibilities.

Additionally, you must be earning below SGA to qualify for SSDI benefits. Review your most recent pay information and make sure you fall below SGA before applying for benefits. Be careful if you are paid biweekly. In months where there are three pay periods, all three will count towards your SGA calculation. If you go over the SGA in any month, it may affect your entitlement to benefits.

SSDI qualification can be confusing and legislation surrounding income limits is ever-changing. Be sure to work with a trusted attorney to help you navigate your application.

Overall, the Social Security system is complex. With a combined experience of over 64 years, the team of attorneys at Black & Jones, located in Rockford, IL, is well-trained to guide individuals like you through the SSDI process. Get a free case evaluation here or call us at (815) 967-9000 to get started with your claim.