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Decreasing Factors in SSDI Benefits Explained

Last updated: October 10, 2023

In the realm of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), while 8.5 million Americans receive benefits, many aren't aware of potential reductions. This article will illuminate the factors leading to decreased SSDI benefits. 

With an ever-evolving policy landscape, it's essential for beneficiaries to stay updated and comprehend what might affect their monthly stipends, ensuring effective financial planning.

What Situation Can Decrease SSDI Benefits?

While certain factors can enhance SSDI benefits, there are also specific circumstances that may result in a decrease in these benefits. Two key scenarios that could impact your SSDI benefits are engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) or receiving other government benefits. You must know these circumstances to prevent any unforeseen reductions in your SSDI benefits.

Engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Participation in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) can result in a reduction of your SSDI benefits or even disqualification. The SSA defines SGA as work activity, either self-employed or as an employee, that earns more than a specific monthly income.

Every year, the SSA establishes the SGA earnings threshold. For 2022, this amount is $1,350 per month for non-blind individuals and $2,260 for blind individuals. If your monthly income surpasses this limit, it's considered that you are engaged in SGA, and your eligibility for full SSDI benefits may be affected.

The SSA also provides a Trial Work Period (TWP) provision. This allows beneficiaries to test their ability to work for at least nine months over a rolling 60-month period without jeopardizing their benefits. Any month earning over $970 (as of 2022) is counted as part of your TWP.

However, if your earnings remain above the SGA limit after this period, your SSDI benefits will be discontinued. It's crucial for SSDI beneficiaries contemplating returning to work or supplementing their income to understand these parameters.

Receipt of Other Government Benefits

When you're receiving SSDI benefits, it's crucial to understand how other forms of government aid can affect your monthly payout. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has established guidelines to ensure that the combined income from SSDI and other public disability benefits doesn't surpass 80% of your average earnings before disability.

Take, for instance, if you're receiving worker's compensation or temporary state disability benefits. These could potentially reduce your SSDI benefits. On the other hand, certain benefits like those from the Veterans Administration, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and specific state and local benefits are exempt from this rule and won't impact your SSDI payments.

It's important to note that if your combined benefits breach the 80% threshold, the SSA will adjust your SSDI benefits to meet this limit, leaving your other aids untouched. Furthermore, the benefits your dependents receive are not included in this calculation.

Once the other government disability payments cease, you can inform the SSA to reinstate your full SSDI benefits. Awareness of these regulations can help you stay compliant while optimizing your SSDI benefits.

Addressing Changes in SSDI Benefits

Navigating changes in your SSDI benefits may seem overwhelming, but there are procedures to help you manage these shifts. Whether it involves reporting a change in personal circumstances to the SSA or challenging a decision about your benefits, you have options.

Reporting Changes to the SSA

As an SSDI beneficiary, it's paramount to keep the Social Security Administration (SSA) abreast of any shifts in your circumstances. This ensures your benefits are managed appropriately. The SSA stipulates that changes influencing your disability benefits eligibility and the amount you receive must be reported.

Key changes that necessitate reporting include:

  • Work activity alterations: This encompasses initiating or ceasing work, modifications in duties, pay scale, or work hours. For instance, if you previously worked part-time and have now transitioned to full-time employment, this change should be reported.

  • Living arrangement modifications: This includes relocation, international travel, incarceration or institutionalization, marital status changes, or name changes. For example, if you were previously living alone but have now moved in with a roommate, this change should be reported.

  • Medical condition improvements: The SSA should be informed if your health improves or if you resume work. For instance, if your doctor has cleared you to return to work after a period of disability, this change should be reported.

  • Income or resources changes: Reporting income from non-work sources, such as workers' compensation, pensions, or annuities, is crucial. For example, if you start receiving a pension from a previous employer, this change should be reported.

  • Dependent status alterations: Changes such as the birth or adoption of a child, a child leaving the household, or the death of a dependent should be reported. For instance, if your child has graduated from college and moved out of your home, this change should be reported.

These changes can be communicated via phone, mail, or in person at a local Social Security office. Delay in reporting these changes could lead to overpayment, which must be repaid and may result in penalties or loss of benefits.

Remember, the SSA relies on an accurate snapshot of your circumstances to calculate your SSDI benefits correctly and equitably. Timely reporting of changes can help you avoid unwanted complications regarding your benefits.


1. What impact does reaching Full Retirement Age have on SSDI benefits?

Upon reaching Full Retirement Age, SSDI benefits transition into retirement benefits. However, the overall benefit amount remains unchanged.

2. How does incarceration affect my SSDI benefits?

If incarcerated for more than 30 consecutive days following a conviction, SSDI benefits are typically suspended. Benefits resume upon release, but you must notify the SSA and provide release documents.

3. Can my return to work affect my SSDI benefits?

Yes, engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) can lead to a suspension or reduction of SSDI benefits, depending on the amount earned.

4. How do changes in my dependent status influence my benefits?

Events like marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child can alter the distribution of SSDI benefits, potentially affecting each dependent's share.

5. Do Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) decrease my SSDI benefits?

While COLAs typically increase benefits to account for inflation, it's important to understand that other factors, like increased earnings, might offset these adjustments and affect overall benefits.


In the intricate landscape of SSDI benefits, understanding the nuances is paramount. Factors influencing reductions are extensive, and beneficiaries must remain vigilant. By staying informed, one can navigate potential pitfalls and ensure optimal financial support. As the policy environment evolves, proactive adaptation and knowledge acquisition will be essential tools for every SSDI recipient.

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Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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