Home > Criminal Defense Guide

How Much Money Can You Make On Social Security Disability?

Some people work even after they qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income programs. The effect of working on the benefits that you receive depends on whether you qualify for SSI or SSDI.

This article explains the rules that apply to money earned from working on your SSI and SSDI benefits. It also looks at programs that allow SSDI recipients to attempt a return to full-time work without the income affecting their eligibility for benefits.

Substantial Gainful Activity And Disability Benefits

The definition used by the Social Security Administration to determine if you are disabled and eligible for disability benefits through SSDI and SSI states that you are disabled if you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment expected to last for at least 12 months or expected to result in death.

Substantial gainful activities are physical and mental work tasks, including the following:

  • Walking
  • Sitting for extended periods
  • Standing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Remembering
  • Following directions

Instead of analyzing each task to determine whether it’s gainful, federal regulations established a monthly income amount that indicates that a worker is engaging in substantially gainful work activities. The amount for 2024 is $1,550. You can do substantially gainful activities if you earn more than $1,550 a month.

If you receive SSDI benefits, they may stop if you earn more than $1,550 a month because you may no longer be disabled. However, work incentives may affect SSDI and SSI eligibility unless you receive work incentives.

Working While Collecting SSDI Benefits

Work incentives encourage workers to test their ability to work without losing their SSDI benefits. A trial work period of at least 9 months allows you to work while continuing to receive your full monthly SSDI benefits. Simply notify the Social Security Administration that you are returning to work through a trial work period.

Each month in 2024 that you earn more than $1,110 is a trial work month. A trial work period lasts for nine months.

Regardless of how much you earn from working during a trial work month does not affect your SSDI benefits. You get your full monthly SSDI payment while retaining your earnings from work as long as you report them, even if your earnings exceed the substantial gainful activity limit. You have 60 months to use the 9 months of a trial work period.

You may continue to work beyond the initial trial work period during a 36-month extended period of eligibility. The biggest difference between an extended period of eligibility and a trial work period is that your earnings during an extended period cannot exceed the substantial amount of $1,550 or $2,590 if you are blind.

If you had substantial earnings during the extended work period, which affected your SSDI benefits eligibility, you may apply for expedited reinstatement. You must apply within five years without filing a new application to request reinstatement.

SSI Benefits And Income Earned While Working

You may work while receiving SSI benefits, provided your earnings from work, when added together with the income you have from other sources, exceed the SSI income limits in the state where you live. Each state is different, so ask for help from a disability lawyer.

An important consideration when working while receiving SSI benefits is expenses incurred to enable you to work. Special equipment, transportation, counseling, and other expenses may be deducted from your earnings to minimize the effect they have on your SSI eligibility.

Students With Disabilities Who Work

Special rules apply for disabled students who work while attending school. If you are younger than age 22 and attend school or a training program, some of your earnings do not count toward eligibility for disability benefits. You may as much as $2,290 per month up to an annual maximum in 2024 of $9,230.