Will I Lose My Disability If I Work Part-Time?

Colbert Cooper Hill Attorneys

A person who has a disability and uses a wheelchair at the workplace talking with a coworker

Social Security Disability is meant to provide financial support to those who are incapable of working and making a living due to a disabling medical condition or illness. Normally, you have to be considered totally disabled and be significantly limited in your “ability to do basic work-related activities” in order to qualify.

However, even among those with full SSDI benefits, many beneficiaries consider taking on a part-time job. The Social Security system is notoriously strict, so a common question people have is: Can you work part time on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? If you get a job, will you lose your SSDI benefits?

Learn more about the rules surrounding disability benefits in Oklahoma City and how a part-time job may affect your benefits.

How Part-Time Work Can Affect Your Disability Income

One of the requirements for SSDI is that you are unable to work. However, through medical improvements, technological improvements, or other means, someone receiving disability benefits may consider finding a job that fits their abilities.

People in this situation are typically very concerned about how this affects their benefits and their Medicare coverage. Since SSDI benefits are difficult to get approval for, you don’t want to risk losing benefits if the new job doesn’t work out!

The short answer here: If your income exceeds the limitations for substantial gainful activity (SGA), your SSDI benefits will be terminated.

The SGA amount is a set maximum monthly income limit. The 2023 monthly limit is $1,470 per month; this is set to rise to $1,550 for 2024. Essentially, if you exceed this limit, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may think you don’t need disability benefits anymore.

It’s not impossible to work part-time while receiving Social Security disability benefits, but it’s important to keep in mind that the rules surrounding disability claims and work activity are extremely complicated. For questions about your specific situation, you may want to talk to a Social Security disability lawyer so that you understand the consequences of any income you receive.

If You Earn Less Than the SGA Limit

You can still receive disability benefits if you stay under the Substantial Gainful Activity limit. However, doing so will probably affect the monthly amount you receive. The Social Security Administration waives the first $85 you make, but after that, your monthly benefits are reduced by half of your monthly income.

For example, let’s say you receive SSDI benefits of $900 monthly, but then you start earning $285 per month. The SSA will subtract that $85 deduction, then half of the remaining $200 in income would equal $100. The SSA will reduce your monthly benefits by $100, so you will now receive only $800 in SSDI.

Impairment-Related Work Expenses

It’s also important to consider impairment-related work expenses, or IRWE. When a disabled person goes to work a part-time job of some kind, it’s possible that the value of the work they produce isn’t actually equal to the amount they’re being paid. During these instances, those impairment-related expenses would be deducted from your pay, such as needing more supervision, needing more time to complete tasks, and completing less work overall compared to other workers at the same pay level.

IRWE is a factor when considering whether your pay exceeds the SGA. For example, you may be making more than $1,550 per month in terms of base pay, but less once IRWE is deducted. While this means you’re getting less pay from your part-time job, you do get to keep receiving Social Security Disability benefits, leading to more income overall.

RELATED: Can You Get Social Security Disability for a Mental Illness?

The Trial Work Period

A man reviewing paperwork

Anyone receiving SSDI benefits who makes a gross income of $1,110 a month in 2024 ($1,050 in 2023) will trigger what’s known as a “trial work period.” This program is designed to protect your SSDI benefits from termination while you test out your potential employment.

If you receive an amount over the trial work period limit during 9 consecutive or non-consecutive months during a 60-month period, then the SSA will decide if you can support yourself without SSDI income. If the SSA decides you are participating in substantial gainful activity, you will receive benefits for another 3 months during the “grace period.”

After the 9th month of exceeding the SGA limit, you will enter an extended period of eligibility. If you maintain employment in the 36 months following your trial work period, you may collect your SSDI benefits only during months that your income did not exceed the SGA limit.

As you can see, this is a little complicated. For the first 3 months of your extended period of eligibility, you will still collect your “grace period” benefits, then for the next 33 months it will depend on your income.

RELATED: How Does a Lump Sum Settlement Affect Social Security Disability?

Exceptions to SGA

There are exceptions to SGA that will allow you to earn more money while still receiving your disability benefits. This can be done by participating in the SSA’s work incentives. These are special programs that allow disability recipients to transition back into the workforce.

These programs come in many forms. For example, you may be able to receive disability payments by participating in a vocational rehabilitation program. This is for recipients who medically recover and go back to work but still receive payments to help them become self-supporting.

A popular employment support services program is called Ticket to Work.

The Ticket to Work Program

Of all the work incentive programs available to SSI and SSDI recipients, one of the most well known is the Ticket to Work program. This Social Security program is designed to help people who are concerned about losing disability like SSI benefits or losing health insurance when they go back to work. With this program, you can build skills and employment history without losing your benefits.

Participants can use work incentives to help find a job. They will have access to employment networks, job placement and career development services, and other support services meant to help people on disability find gainful employment. While participating in this program, the SSA cannot perform a Continuing Disability Review. Your earnings may affect the amount you receive in disability benefits.

This program can be a very meaningful experience for those who would like to explore their earning potential. SSDI beneficiaries who are seeking financial stability, but don’t want to risk losing their benefits, may find that this is the safety net they’ve been looking for.

RELATED: How to Pass a Continuing Disability Review

Need Help Understanding Your Benefits? The Wolf Pack™ Has Your Back!

Can you work part time on Social Security Disability? Does my part-time job exceed the SGA limit? How do I start my trial work period? From the start of the application process for disability benefits to long after you’ve been approved, many difficult questions can arise.

If you need help applying or appealing for SSDI or SSI benefits, The Wolf Pack™ at Colbert Cooper Hill Attorneys has your back! We serve disabled individuals and their families in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Ardmore, and surrounding communities. Our experienced disability attorneys will do everything in our power to help you get approved for the benefits you deserve.

We know the ins and outs of the Social Security system and will answer any questions you may have about the SSDI application process, your eligibility, and how to maximize your benefits. Our attorneys can provide valuable help for everything from your initial application, to appealing an SSA decision in front of an administrative law judge.

Contact The Wolf Pack™ today at 405-218-9200 or fill out our online form to get your free case review today!

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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