Can you work and receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income?By: Beth Losure
Claimants may qualify for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance working part-time and receiving a limited income, but Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will be denied by the Social Security Administration if the SSA determines the Social Security Disability applicant is performing substantial gainful activity.
What is substantial gainful activity (SGA)?
Substantial gainful activity, according to the Social Security Administration, is doing any type of mental or physical activity which is substantial. Work is considered substantial if the non-blind applicant makes a gross income of $1,000 per month (for 2011), and the blind applicant makes a gross income of $1,640 per month (for 2011).
Does work have to be full-time to be substantial?
No, substantial gainful activity can be part-time and according to the SSA it can include any of the following:
Any work performed or done for pay or profit.
Work which normally receives pay or profit
Work which is intended for profit even if profit is not realized
Can I attend school and be considered disabled?
Attending school can also, under certain conditions, be considered substantial. If you are attending school full-time, even though no pay or profit is realized, you may still be considered not disabled because the SSA may assume the efforts to attend school is comparable to some types of employment.
If you work, how do your wages affect your disability benefits?
How wages impact your disability benefit will depend on whether you are receiving SSI or SSDI. Both programs evaluate the claimants countable income, which is the gross amount of your earnings (less subtracted qualifying expenses).
If you are receiving SSDI benefits, the SSA allows a Trial Work Period where you can collect SSDI and earn wages for nine months. If you are considering returning to work and you are currently receiving SSDI, contact the SSA for more information.
If you are receiving Supplemental Security Income, wages are not treated as a progression back to full-time employment, but rather an ongoing possibility. Each month the SSA evaluates your wages for that month and calculates your SSI benefit based on what you earned. The first $65 of countable income is exempt, but after that, any income you receive will reduce your SSI benefit payment for that month.
This SSI payment calculation is not done prior to awarding the monthly SSI benefit so it is important to keep records and set aside money for overpayments. The SSA will request back any money that is overpaid for the months that you had countable income.
As you can see, working and receiving disability can be complicated. Workers should not return to work if they are receiving SSI or SSDI without fully understanding the implications and how their Social Security Disability benefits may be affected.
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