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How Many Hours Can You Work On SSI?

Last updated: April 12, 2023

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) helps low-income individuals who are elderly, blind, or disabled. Unlike the SSDI, the SSI allows claimants to work. In order to understand how many hours you can work while on SSI, let's first talk about what the program is about and what an SGA is.

What Is Supplementary Security Income (SSI)?

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSI is paid to disabled individuals who earn little or no money. There are strict financial requirements to qualify for SSI, but eligibility is not determined by employment history. There is no cap on the number of hours you can work on SSI; rather, there is a cap on the amount of money you can earn in a month. 

To register in 2022, you must earn less than $841 in monthly taxable income and have fewer than $2,000 in assets. The limit is $3,000 for a couple. The distinction between SSI and SSDI is that SSI claimants are encouraged to work as much as possible. Because only about half of your income is counted toward the Social Security Administration's income totals, the $794 monthly limit is frequently closer to $1,500.

Your monthly payment is determined by your income. If your income reduces while you are receiving SSI, your benefits may be raised to the $841 maximum. Your payments will reduce as your income improves.

Even if your income exceeds the amount required to qualify for SSI, you may still be able to retain your Medicaid. Additionally, if you have significantly high medical bills, you can apply to purchase Medicaid from the state's Medicare organization.

What Is A Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

In order to determine whether you should receive benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines whether you are engaged in a substantial gainful activity (SGA). Here are a few things you need to remember about the SGA: 

  • You earn more than a certain amount per month (minus disability-related work costs).
  • From 2022 onwards, the SGA amount will be $1,350 per month. For blind individuals, it will be $2,260 per month. That is the maximum amount you can receive on disability in 2022.
  • As the SGA can increase, it's essential to check it every year.

How Many Hours Can You Work If You’re Self-Employed?

When you're managing your own business, you have the flexibility to work long hours without being compensated on an hourly basis. In that scenario, the SSA will consider your work hours and monthly income.

Social Security normally allows self-employed individuals receiving SSI to work up to 45 hours per month. This equates to approximately ten hours every week. Additionally, the SSA will determine if you are the only proprietor of your business.

How Many Hours Can You Work If You’re Employed For Someone?

The number of hours worked is less significant if you are not self-employed. In general, your monthly income is the most important factor in determining your disability eligibility. However, working an excessive number of hours may affect your case.

For instance, suppose you work close to full-time hours while earning less than $1,350 per month. The Social Security Administration might think that you can work a full-time job and withhold your benefits. If you can work many hours, convincing Social Security that you are disabled will be more difficult.

How Does Social Security Track My Hours Worked While On SSI?

If you are self-employed and receiving SSI, the SSA will determine whether you are earning SGA using one of two tests:

  • The Countable Income Test
  • The Three Examinations

Which test the SSA administers will depend on your job history, such as when you began your business and how long you have been receiving SSI.

Countable Income Test

The Social Security Administration will apply the Countable Income Test if:

  • You have been receiving SSI for more than two years
  • You began freelancing or establishing a small business

The Social Security Administration (SAA) will examine your taxable income and any substantial services you provide.

Countable Income

Countable income is the money you generate from your own labor. The SSA will calculate your net earnings and subtract any of the following:

  • Costs of disability-related work
  • Uncompensated assistance from relatives or others
  • Someone offers you free business/capital support (unincurred business costs)

Significant Services

Additionally, the SSA will examine whether you provide essential services to your organization. If you are the sole employee of your business, your services are indispensable. The business wouldn't run if you didn't work.

If your firm employs more than one worker, the SSA considers your services to be significant if:

  • You spend more than half of the time required to manage your firm
  • You devote more than 45 hours each month to business management

If your countable income exceeds SGA, you will lose your SSI eligibility. However, there is one condition. You can make more than SGA and still qualify if you demonstrate that you are not providing essential services.

The Three Examinations

If you have been receiving SSI for less than two years, the Social Security Administration will apply the Three Tests to your case.

The following are the three tests:

  • Significant services and substantial income test
  • Test of comparability
  • Worth of Work test 

If any of the three tests indicate that you are earning SGA, you will be disqualified from SSI benefits.

1. Significant Services And Substantial Income Test

This examination determines whether you are delivering major services and earning significant revenue.

Your business revenue is substantial if it exceeds SGA or if your average countable income is less than SGA but what you earn from your business is comparable to the following:

  • Your means of subsistence prior to your impairment
  • With the same type of business, you can improve the lives of non-disabled individuals in your community.

If the SSA uses this test, it may be more difficult to qualify for benefits. If you believe the outcome was unjust, call a Social Security Disability attorney.

2. Comparability Examination

If your employment activity is comparable to that of non-disabled people in your locality in the same business type, the SSA will consider you are earning SGA. The SSA will consider things like:

  • The number of hours you work
  • Skills/duties
  • Productivity and efficiency of work
  • Occupational responsibilities

This test can also be difficult, and you may be required to present specific evidence. 

3. Worth of Work Evaluation

Social Security may classify your work as SGA if you:

  • Clearly, your business is more valuable than SGA.
  • Your business is valued more than SGA compared to what you would pay someone else to perform your job obligations.

If you fail any of the SSA tests, you may be denied benefits or have your current benefits terminated.


Overall, the number of hours you work while receiving SSI is irrelevant. For most employed individuals, the SSA will look at your monthly income instead. However, if you are self-employed, you must keep track of your work hours.

If you’re interested in learning more about social security disability benefits, visit Disability Help’s article discussing whether the social security disability is taxable or not.

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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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