If you want to earn some additional income, how much can you make on disability before it starts to have an impact on your benefits? There is no reason why you shouldn’t look to supplement your income if you are receiving disability benefits. But you do need to know where you stand. This post will provide all of the information that you need.
The answer to the question will vary depending on whether you are collecting SSDI (social security disability insurance) or SSI (supplemental security income). There are different rules that apply to each of these cases.
How much can you make on Disability – SSDI
In general, if you are receiving SSDI benefits then you will not be permitted to earn additional income through a job or some other means. But the Social Security Administration (SSA) wants to encourage disabled people to find work so there is an exception.
The major exception is that you can participate in a trial work period and retain your SSDI benefits, even if the amount that you earn exceeds SGA amounts. SGA stands for “substantial gainful activity” and there is a threshold of $1,310 or $2,190 (for blind people) per month.
Trial work periods are for 9 months and during this trial you will be testing your capability to work. Throughout this period, you will continue to receive your full SSDI benefits. The SSA will deem any month where you earn above $940 as a trial work month. For the self-employed, working over 80 hours may also fall into the category of a trial work month.
After 9 months in a trial work period (there is no requirement for these to be consecutive) you will still be able to receive your SSDI benefit in any month where your income falls below the SGA limits. This will be the case for 3 years.
Should your SSDI benefits stop because you are making more than the SGA limit, there will be a period of 5 years where the SSA will reinstate your benefits if you cannot work due to your disability.
How much can you make on Disability – SSI
The SSA has specific income rules if you are receiving SSI benefits. If you exceed this limit imposed then the SSA will reduce your SSI benefit each month in proportion to the additional money that you are making.
In 2021, the limit for SSI “countable” earnings (the federal amount is the same) is $794. Your countable income is the money that you earn from a job or your self-employment activities. The good news here is that not all of your earnings are considered to be countable.
When you have a job, the SSA will not register the first $85 of your earnings as contributing to your countable limit. They will make this adjustment first and then deduct 50 cents for each dollar that your job pays.
This is best explained with an example. Let’s assume that you earn $1,200 per month from your employment. The first $85 does not qualify, so your countable income here is $1,115. Dividing this by 2 results in $557.50 countable income. The SSA will then reduce your SSI benefit by this amount.
You would be able to earn $1,675 per month before your SSI benefits are lost. Please be aware that your amount of benefit every month is also impacted by the amount that the state adds to your federal SSI benefit (if this applies).
Should your SSI benefit payments cease because you are earning more than the threshold limit, but you cannot continue to work due to your disability, you can ask the SSA to reinstate your SSI benefits without the need to apply again. You have a 5 year period where this applies.
Expenses that relate to your Disability
In some cases, you may incur additional expenses to earn your additional income that would not apply to a non-disabled individual. Here the SSA will take these expenses into account and deduct them from your monthly income when they are working out your benefits.
Maybe you need special counselling services to enable you to work or there is a need for you to pay for transportation to a job. Both of these would likely qualify as legitimate expenses. The SSA call these IRWE which stands for impairment related work expenses.
Report your Earnings
If you receive either SSDI or SSI benefits and start to earn more money then you will need to report this to the SSA. Here is what you need to tell them:
- The dates that you started and stopped earning the additional income
- Changes to job duties, the number of hours worked or your pay scale
- Any disability expenses related to your additional income
Of course, you need to tell the SSA what your income per month is too. You can make the reports by mail or by phone. It is also possible to report changes to the SSA online. Find out more about this here.
You now know the answer to “how much can you make on disability?’ Bear in mind that if you are able to work then you may find that the SSA will want to reassess your disability status. They may not believe that you are disabled any more if you can work more than 20 hours a week for example.