Can you work while receiving disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the two main financial assistance programs offered to Americans with disabilities, both of which place limits on the recipient’s income.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are awarded along with the rest of Social Security benefits for U.S. retirees. As of April 2022, the number of Americans with disabilities benefiting from the program was more than 9 million. Another program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), provides support for people with disabilities in the United States and recorded a total of 7.6 million monthly recipients.

But what if you are disabled and are considering a gradual return to work? Will you lose your Social Security benefits as soon as you set foot in an office? We take a look…

Can you work while benefiting from Social Security disability insurance?

For most SSDI recipients, there is a fairly simple earnings calculation that would mean you can no longer receive disability benefits. The SSA uses a substantial gainful activity threshold, which puts a numerical number at the point after which you stop receiving benefits.

In 2022, the monthly limit for most people with disabilities is $1,350; if you earn less than that each month, you can continue to receive SSDI support. A major exception concerns blind people, for whom the substantial gainful activity limit increased to $2,260 per month. All disability-related work expenses can be deducted from your monthly income.

If you want to return to work on a preliminary basis but don’t want to risk losing your benefits, the work trial period allows you to do just that. During the nine-month trial period, you can test your ability to return to the workplace without losing a single penny of SSDI benefitswhether or not you exceed the substantial activity limit.

Can you work while claiming Supplemental Security Income?

While SSDI is a program specifically designed to provide support to all Americans with disabilities, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) has a slightly broader remit. SSI is available to Americans with disabilities or who are blind, but also to seniors who meet certain conditions.

Unlike the strict financial limits mentioned earlier, SSI benefits are simply slightly reduced for every dollar the beneficiary earns. The proposed maximum amount is based on the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR), which in 2022 is $841 per month for individuals and $1,261 for couples.

To receive SSI, your accounting monthly income cannot exceed the FBR. However for SSI beneficiaries only half of every dollar earned on a monthly basis is counted as your income. This means you can continue to claim SSI benefits as long as your monthly income is below $1,682.

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