How Much Can I Earn and Still Collect SSDI?
It is possible to work while collecting SSDI, but there are rules that apply during that
The Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages you to go back to work and offers
a Trial Work Period (TWP) that allows you to test your ability to work. The SSA gives
up to nine months, during a specified five-year period, to try working while still being
considered disabled and collecting your SSDI benefits. Any compensated work you do,
whether part time or full time, is deemed to be work. However, in 2012, any month in
which your earnings do not exceed $720 is not counted toward your nine-month limit. If
you made more than $720 in one month in 2011, that month will count as a Trial Work
Period month. You can check ssa.gov for the current monthly earnings that will trigger a
Trial Work Period month.
In the five-year window following that date, you can use nine months to attempt working,
and it will not count against you. During this trial period, you will have to report your
work activity, your income and your expenses to the SSA. Social Security will receive
your earnings report, but it should not count against your benefits when they see the
earnings for the work. The nine months do not have to be consecutive; they are simply
nine months during the five-year period.
If your gross income is more than the Trial Work Period amount set for that year and is
longer than nine months during the five year period, SSA will re-evaluate your case and
may stop your disability benefits. At the end of the Trial Work Period, you can still
receive your benefits if you do not make more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA)
amount. In 2012, SGA is $1,010 per month for non-blind individuals, and $1,690 for
those who are blind.
An Extended Trial Work Period offers you an additional nine months during a three-year
window where the same rules apply. The Extended Work Period begins the day after the
Trial Work Period ends.
During this Extended Trial Work Period, if you are testing the work force, Social
Security may decide to stop your SSDI benefits. Typically, you cannot make more than
$1,010 a month (in 2012) or you may lose your benefits. The work expenses you have
due to your disability are deducted when your earnings are determined. If you have extra
work-related expenses, then your earnings could be higher than $1,010 per month (in
2012) before impacting your benefits. These extra work-related expenses include items
and services that are necessary for you to work, such as transportation to and from work,
a wheelchair, counseling services, etc.
If your benefits are stopped during this time, there is an opportunity to get them reinstated
without the need to reapply for benefits. Within five years of returning to the work force
and leaving again due to disability, you will be eligible for “expedited reinstatement.”
During the Trial Work Period, they will not stop your benefits; during the Extended Trial
Work Period, Social Security can stop your benefits.
Social Security provides a variety of benefits and the Trial Work Period does not apply to
all of them. Disabled widow and widowers, disabled child, and Social Security Disability
Insurance benefits are eligible for the Trial Work Period. SSI, or Supplemental Security
Income, is not eligible.
While your application for SSDI is pending, if you choose to work part time, it could
have a significant impact on your claim for benefits. In 2012, earning less than $1,010 a
month is considered to be less than substantial gainful activity, which means that the
work you perform in that job will not count against you. However, performance of any
work, even if only part time, will be a factor in the determination of whether you can
perform other work in a longer, sustained period of time. Any work performed during the
SSDI application process could result in your claim being denied.
Before doing any work for income, check with your Social Security disability
representative to ensure that you are not harming your SSDI claim for benefits.