Can I receive disability benefits while I am working?

In general, disability benefits are only available to someone who is not engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). However, it is possible to qualify for Social Security disability benefits and still work in a limited capacity.

The gross total amount SGA for a non-blind person in 2020 is $1,260.

If you go over the SGA amount on a job for a short period but then cannot continue, it may not count. This is called an “unsuccessful work attempt.”

Once you are already receiving SSDI benefits, then there is a situation called a Trial Work Period where you can try returning to work while still receiving benefits. More information on the Trial Work Period is available here.

Once you have completed the nine-month trial work period, for a period of 36 months, you can still receive SSDI for any month where your earnings fall below the SGA level. This is called the extended period of eligibility. In other words, if you earn less than $1,260 in any month, you will get benefits, but if you earn more than $1,260 in any month, you won’t get disability benefits for that month.

Following your trial work period, if your SSDI payments have stopped because your income is substantial, the SSA gives you five years during which your benefits can be reinstated if you again stop working because of your disability. During the five-year period, the SSA will not require you to file a new disability application to get benefits. This is called expedited reinstatement.

SSI receipients may work and continue to receive SSI benefits as long as your income does not exceed the SSA’s income limit for SSI. Your monthly benefit amount will be reduced in proportion to your income.