Disability, SSI

Working While Disabled — Social Security Can Help

August 2, 2018 • By

Last Updated: July 15, 2021

man sitting in wheelchair

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. We’re here to help you get back to work if you’re disabled.

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.
  • Other employment support.

You can read more about working while receiving disability benefits on our Ticket to Work Program page.

Work incentives include:

  • Continued cash benefits for a time while you work.
  • Continued Medicare or Medicaid while you work.
  • 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. This is also important 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. Plus, you may not have to file a new application.

You can learn more about the Ticket to Work program by reading our publication, 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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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Comments

  1. Lauri B.

    Good morning, Im on social security disability. Im considering trying to work very little. What should I consider b4 even thinking bout it? im not considering the work program threw SS. Please let me know. Thanks

    • Vonda

      Hi Lauri, 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.

  2. Ellie

    I am 65yrs old, recieving SSD. In 2020 I earned $12,900.total income yearly
    I worked 11 months as a caregiver to elderly. 3months I went over the amount allowed of $1260.00 other months over 940.00.
    I did not go over the yearly earnings, how is this calculated?
    Please advise

    • Vonda

      Hi Ellie, 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.

  3. Bryan

    How much can my minor child who receives benefits make if he works a summer part time job without affecting his benefits? He is not the primary recipient, he received benefits due to his mother’s disability.

    • Vonda

      Hi Bryan, thanks for using our blog. A minor child that’s receiving a Social Security benefit has the same earnings limits as those under full retirement age and receiving Social Security retirement or survivors benefits. Social Security will 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.

  4. Ed C.

    I am receiving SSDI and have a degenerative condition that will only worsen in time. I want to work but can not hold down any steady job. My question is: Is all income considered work? Or example income from a 401k, income from other investments such as land development, partnering another person to work such as investing in heavy equipment for hire not operated by me only invested in the business. I can not operate equipment any more but I might be able to lease equipment and partner a young person to do the work. I hope I am not confusing with my questions, I want to look into investments that might make money but I can not afford to loose my SSDI payments because I never know from one day to the next if I can even get out of bed.

    • Vonda

      Hi Ed, thanks for using our blog. Check out Social Security’s Red Book for descriptions of the many work incentives. We hope this helps!

  5. Edna

    I completed the Ticket to Work program successfully but then my hours at work were reduced while on the EPE. I am earning below the $1310 per month limit, but it is close.
    Is it true that if in one month I earn over the $1310 limit, my benefits are terminated permanently?
    Also, if I receive a profit sharing check based on the previous year, how is that counted?
    Thank you.

    • Vonda

      Hi Edna, 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.

      If you would like to speak to a representative, you can call 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.

  6. joshua

    I have been getting adult disabled child for some years. If I could find some part time work how much can make?

    • Vonda

      Hi Joshua, 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.

  7. Emily J.

    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.

    • 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.

  8. 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

    • 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.

  9. Christopher P.

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

  10. shaurn j.

    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.

    • 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.

    • Mya S.

      I don’t understand any of this at all! Further it is impossible to get SSA on the phone. I was on hold for over an hour. Someone came on the line and started mumbling incoherentl about how the were “stumbing and crawling on the ground too. I’m just as bad of as you”. What on earth was that?

      • Vonda

        We are sorry to hear about your experience, Mya. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can call 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.

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