Working While Disabled — Social Security Can Help

August 2, 2018 • By

man sitting in wheelchairWhile it may be best known for retirement, Social Security is also here to help you get back to work if you are disabled. For millions of people, work isn’t just a source of income, it’s a vital part of who they are — it gives them purpose and pride — it’s a connection to community. If you’re getting Social Security disability benefits, we have good news for you. Social Security’s work incentives and Ticket to Work programs can help you if you’re interested in working. Special rules make it possible for people receiving Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments.

The Ticket to Work program may help you if you’d like to work. You can receive:

  • Free vocational rehabilitation;
  • Training;
  • Job referrals; and
  • Other employment support.

You can read more about working while collecting disability benefits at our website.

Work incentives include:

  • Continued cash benefits for a time while you work;
  • Continued Medicare or Medicaid while you work; and
  • Help with education, training, and rehabilitation to start a new line of work.

If you’re receiving Social Security disability benefits or SSI, let us know right away when you start or stop working, or if any other change occurs that could affect your benefits.

If you returned to work, but you can’t continue working because of your medical condition, your benefits can start again — you may not have to file a new application.

You can learn more about the Ticket to Work program by reading Working While Disabled: How We Can Help.

Part of securing today and tomorrow is giving you the tools to create a fulfilling life. Getting back to work might be part of that. We’re here with a ticket to a secure tomorrow.

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Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


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  1. Andrea

    If I am in my EPE and voluntarily suspend my SSDI payments, will my dependent children on my record lose their benefits also?

    • them

      Yes, their benefits will be suspended as well

  2. Roger D Romedy

    Can a person drawing SSDI or SSI own a property after the caretaker pass?

    • Vonda

      Hi Roger, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs based program so a change in your assets can affect your benefits and it must be reported. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  3. Alexandria Johnson

    Can I apply online for SSDI eligibility?

    • Vonda

      Hi Alexandria. We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked long enough and recently enough in jobs covered by Social Security (usually within the last 10 years). The (SSI) program is a needs based program that gives cash assistance to disabled individuals with limited income and resources. We pay disability benefits to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or to end in death. If you think you may be eligible to receive disability benefits and would like to apply, you can use our online application. We hope this helps!

  4. Shelly

    What is the max amount I can make, going to work, that won’t affect my SSI??

    • Sue

      Happy new year, Shelly, and thank you for your question. We have special rules that make it possible for people with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid. Social Security calls these rules “work incentives.” Some work incentives allow us to exclude some income and resources. For SSI recipients, for example, we do not count the first $65 of gross (pre-tax) earnings you receive in a month, plus one-half of your remaining earnings. This means that we count less than one-half of your earnings when we figure your SSI payment amount. Click here to see examples of the “Earned Income Exclusion”. Learn more about our other work incentives in our Red Book.

      If you receive SSI, you must tell us right away when you start working, and you must report your earnings each month. This will help us avoid overpayments and underpayments. For instructions on the various ways to report your work, see Reporting Wages When You Receive Supplemental Security Income. If you need to contact your local Social Security office, you’ll find the phone number using our Office Locator.

      • Rick

        Do I need to use a program? Can I find a PT job myself based on my limitations? What is the magic number where ssdi will begin to reduce?
        Thank you in advance

        • Rick

          specifically SSDI

        • Lynn Brown

          I have this question also.

  5. Diana

    What is the maximum I can earn while on disability

    • Vonda

      Hi Diana, thank you for your question. Social Security has special rules that make it possible for people with disabilities receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments. These are called work incentives.

      For SSDI beneficiaries, there is a Trial Work Period (TWP) and then an Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). The TWP allows you to test your ability to work for at least 9 months. During this period, you will receive your full disability benefit regardless of how much you earn as long as your work activity is reported and you continue to have a disabling impairment. In 2021, any month in which earnings exceed $940 is considered a month of the 9-month trial work period.

      Once you’ve completed your TWP, you get a 36-month safety net called the EPE. During the EPE, you get benefits for all months your earnings or work activities are below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as long as you continue to have a disabling impairment. Social Security will suspend cash benefits for months earnings are over SGA and start benefits again if earnings fall below the SGA level. In 2021, you are earning SGA if your earnings, after any allowable deductions, are more than $1,310 in a month.

      Check out Social Security’s Red Book for descriptions of the many work incentives.


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