Disability

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. shaurn john

    Earnings limits Under full retirement age 2021: $18,960
    For every $2 over the limit, $1 is withheld from benefits.

    Substantial Gainful Activity (non-blind) 2021: $1,310 per month

    I don’t understand the math in this. If I make more than the SGA I lose all benefits? Or is it after the $18,960, For every $2 over the limit, $1 is withheld from benefits?

    Please help. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Shaurn, thanks for using our blog. It depends on the type of Social Security benefit that you’re receiving. You can get Social Security retirement (including spouse’s, divorced spouse’s) or survivors benefits and work at the same time. However, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full benefits. The amount you’re allowed to earn while receiving benefits depends on your age. If you attain full retirement age in 2021, the earnings limit is $50,520 but we only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you’re under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2021, that limit is $18,960.

      Visit our Receiving Benefits While Working web page for more details.

      If you’re receiving Social Security disability benefits, and you’ve completed your Trial Work Period, you get a 36-month safety net called the Extended Period of Eligibility. 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.

      Reply
  2. Christopher Paxton

    I think there should be an option to pay back any amount over the allowed limit and continue receiving benefits.

    Reply
  3. Daisy

    I am on the SSDI program due to my life long diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. I was told that I would be able to partially work with a cap on my monthly earnings without it affecting my benefits. I’ve been out of work for some time now and have not been able to find work that is not physically demanding. Now more than ever, especially due to covid it has been difficult to find part time work. If it’s not physically demanding it requires to be around people. I am on medication that depletes my white blood cell count and have been advised to limit my interactions with others due to my condition. In this situation would I be able to qualify for unemployment? Is that allowed with SSDI benefits? Please let me know.

    Thank you for your time.
    Daisy

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Daisy, thank you for your question. Unemployment benefits do not affect or reduce Social Security retirement and disability benefits. State unemployment compensation payments are not wages because they are paid due to unemployment rather than employment. However, income from Social Security may reduce your unemployment compensation. Contact your state unemployment office for information on how your state applies the reduction.

      Reply
  4. Emily Jeffery

    I have epilepsy, which is something I have had all of my life and will never go away. Am I able to work part time, and it not affect my benefits? Can I only work under the “Ticket to Work” program or am I able to work part time, as long as I am within the SGA? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Emily, 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.

      Reply

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