Working While on Disability: What You Need To Know

f you’re receiving disability benefits, you may be unsure about your option to work while still receiving payments. It’s important to know that this is indeed possible, but it comes with regulations to follow. In order to comply with Social Security guidelines, some rules must be adhered to. Keep reading to learn what needs to be understood before taking on employment while on disability.

Can You Legally Work while on Disability?

Did you know the Social Security Administration encourages disabled individuals to work and offers work-incentive programs to help them find employment? But before taking on a job, it’s important to understand that the amount a disabled worker can earn differs depending on various factors. And depending on whether you’re receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the assistance available can vary greatly.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income is a lifeline for vulnerable populations with limited financial resources. This need-based program provides a monthly stipend from the federal government to cover basic necessities like food and housing.

By January 2023, the maximum benefit could be up to $914 for an individual and $1,371 for a couple per month, with some states adding additional funds. Plus, recipients may still work and receive benefits until their total monthly income exceeds $1,913 after certain deductions. It’s a crucial safety net ensuring basic needs are met for those most need it.

Work Rules of SSI

Navigating the rules around Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can be tricky. Basically, if you earn more than $65 a month, your benefits start to go down. Even unearned income can impact your benefits, with the first $20 disregarded and every dollar after that reducing your SSI. This can leave many recipients scratching their heads and trying to make ends meet. It’s important to remember that SSI is often for people who can’t work due to a disability or other factors, so understanding the rules is key to making the most of this support.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a disability program funded by taxes from each paycheck. It’s designed to protect those who can’t work due to a disability. Depending on the applicant’s working history, it may provide monthly payments and additional benefits like health insurance coverage.

Work Rules of SSDI

While not exclusively for low-income individuals, there are income limitations on employment earnings for those on Social Security assistance. As of 2023, the monthly limits are $1,470 for non-blind workers and $2,460 for blind workers. However, it’s worth noting that income and assets outside of work earnings are unlimited. Overall, it’s important to understand this program’s specific guidelines and requirements before pursuing it as an option.


First, to qualify for Social Security disability programs, the SSA uses a specific definition to determine if applicants are disabled. Being “disabled” means meeting the following criteria:

  • Being totally disabled and unable to perform previously done work
  • Unable to adjust to other types of work due to a medical condition
  • Having a disability last for at least a year or result in death

Navigating the differences between these programs can be tricky for both beneficiaries and outsiders. The work rules diverge significantly between the two, so it’s crucial to understand the nuances before making any decisions. Key differences between the two programs include:

Work Guidelines: SSDI has more flexibility when it comes to working while working with SSI could lower the monthly benefits.

Income Eligibility: SSI recipients must meet specific financial needs and income limits, while those eligible for SSDI have no income limitations.

Eligibility Requirements: The disability definition for SSDI is less restrictive than SSI.

Before deciding to work while receiving disability benefits, speaking with a professional, such as an attorney or financial advisor who can provide detailed information and assistance, is recommended.

SS Work-Incentive Rules and Programs

Social Security offers two exceptional work-incentive programs: Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) and Ticket to Work. These two programs are free and voluntary for those who join. 


While PASS is exclusively available to SSI recipients, it allows them to create work goals, start a new skill, attend college, or even start a business. And once Social Security approves the plan, all costs related to achieving the goals can be deducted from their income, enabling them to earn more money while still keeping their cash benefits.

Ticket Work

Similarly, Ticket to Work is available to both SSI and SSDI recipients. It helps them build a strong career by providing job training, vocational rehabilitation, and other employment support. Suppose a person is making good progress in the Ticket program. In that case, they can receive an exemption from the periodic medical review that determines if they meet the definition of “disabled.” This means they can keep receiving their benefits without worry. Additionally, SSDI recipients are given a trial work period of nine months, during which they can earn as much as they want without risking their benefits.

That sounds like a great option, right? Well, the best part is that by joining these programs, beneficiaries can work without worrying about losing their benefits. If you’re a Social Security recipient, check out these programs and take a step toward achieving your career goals!

The Downside for Disabled Individuals

Despite being designed to assist those of limited means, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) has yet to keep up with inflation or shifts in the labor market, leaving many recipients struggling to make ends meet. The program’s outdated provisions – like the $85 income deduction set in 1972 and the $2,000 cap on liquid assets established in 1989 – underscore the inadequacy of federal policy. Meanwhile, the maximum monthly payout of $914, while adjusted yearly, falls drastically short of the poverty line.

Working to your fullest potential is a foundation of American ideals, but for those receiving SSI and SSDI, accurately reporting their fluctuating earned income can be a significant challenge. Due to the nature of their conditions, a fixed work schedule is often out of the question. The fear of losing benefits as a worker only compounds these difficulties. It’s no wonder recipients often find themselves caught between their aspirations and the reality of their situation.

Here’s Out Advice: Join a Program

Navigating the complexities of social security can be daunting, and even experts can need help to make sense of it all. For the average person, it can feel overwhelming, causing anxiety and confusion. But don’t lose hope just yet.

If you’re a disabled worker, there’s a free solution that can help ease your anxiety and protect your benefits. The Ticket to Work program offers support as you take steps toward employment. And with the help of qualified benefits counselors, like those at My Employment Options, you can tackle the paperwork and find a job that caters to your needs. Say goodbye to the fear-inducing letters in your mailbox and hello to a brighter, more secure future.

Keeping Social Security up-to-date with your contact details is essential, or you might face some unpleasant surprises later. Don’t miss any correspondence – open those letters, and don’t hesitate to ask questions to avoid unnecessary benefits cuts or repayment demands. Stay on top of your Social Security, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re covered.

How Your Earnings Could Affect Your Benefits

When you start working after getting approved for disability benefits, there are no limits on your earnings during the trial work period. However, during the extended period of eligibility, which lasts for 36 months, you typically can’t make more than $1,470 per month (or $2,460 if you’re blind) in 2023, or your benefits may be discontinued. These earnings limits are referred to as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). But don’t worry. If you have work-related expenses because of your disability, these can be deducted from your earnings before they’re counted towards the SGA limit.

You can deduct certain work expenses from your earnings, including items or services you need for work and use in everyday life. Think copayments for prescriptions, counseling services, transportation expenses under special circumstances, personal attendant or job coach services, wheelchairs, or specialized work equipment.

If you’re earning a lot and want to avoid receiving too many cash benefits, consider asking that your benefits be withheld. It’s smart to stay on top of your finances and ensure you’re not accidentally overpaid.

What Your Should Report to SS if You Work and Receive Disability

As a Social Security recipient, staying on top of any changes in your work situation that may affect your eligibility is essential. If you’re receiving Social Security due to a disability, be mindful that you or your representative must notify us immediately if anything on this checklist occurs:

  • Starting or stopping work
  • Changes to your work duties, hours, or pay (even if you’ve already reported your work status)
  • Incurring work expenses related to your disability

To make reporting changes as easy as possible, you can do so by phone, mail, or in person. Remember, keeping us in the loop could make all the difference in maintaining your Social Security benefits.

Rules for Blind Individuals

There are specific regulations to consider for visually impaired individuals who receive Social Security benefits while working. You can generate up to $2,460 monthly in 2023 before your earnings impact your benefits. If your income surpasses the disability benefit limit, you can still be eligible for a disability “freeze.” This ensures that the years you could not work due to disability are not counted when calculating your future benefits. This is advantageous because your benefits are based on your highest earnings achieved throughout your working life.

Work Incentives at a Glance

SSI: If you’re 65 years or older or have a disability or blindness with limited income and resources, you can receive SSI payments from social security. And if you work despite your disability, your payments can continue until your earnings and other income exceed your state’s SSI income limit. Don’t worry about losing Medicaid coverage either, as it usually continues if your earnings are less than your state level.

Reinstatement: Get your disability payments back on track with Expedited Reinstatement. Suppose your earnings caused Social Security to cut off your payments, but you’re now unable to work due to a medical issue. In that case, you can request a restart of payments – with no need to reapply – within five years of the month they stopped. Don’t wait – get the financial help you need to manage your condition.

Work Expenses: If you have special needs due to a medical condition and are employed, you may require certain accommodations to help you get to work and receive the necessary counseling services. This could include alternative transportation options such as taxis or special bus services and financial assistance to cover these expenses. Fortunately, Social Security can deduct these costs from your earnings to ensure you remain eligible for payments.

Students with Disabilities: If you’re a youngster still studying or enrolled in a training program, then listen up! The government has a Student Earned-Income Exclusion (SEIE) program for you. It’s a special allowance where some of your earnings are only considered when your social security benefits are calculated. So if you’re worried that a part-time job might negatively impact your SSI payment, fret not! In 2023, up to $2,220 of your monthly earnings will be excluded (with a maximum of $8,950 for the year). This special perk might make balancing work and school much easier for you.

The Bottom Line

Working while on disability can be an excellent way for disabled individuals to supplement their incomes and gain financial independence. However, it is vital for all disabled people considering working while receiving disability payments to understand the rules and regulations set by the SSA for them to remain compliant with these regulations and keep their benefits intact. By understanding these rules and regulations and taking appropriate steps accordingly, disabled workers can enjoy the financial freedom of working while maintaining their eligibility requirements for SSDI or SSI payments!


Working While Disabled,


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