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What Are The Rules For Working While On SSDI?

Last updated: April 8, 2023

Working individuals who pay their Social Security taxes regularly can earn coverage for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a social insurance program that protects disabled individuals and their family members by compensating them for their lost earnings to some extent. Disabled individuals must meet the SSA’s definition of disability to qualify for disability benefits. Disability is determined by the length of time a patient has been unable to work or the probability of their death. The disabling condition must prevent the individual from performing work they did previously and from taking on new jobs. SSDI beneficiaries are among the most severely disabled in the United States since disability is so strictly defined by the SSA. Disabled individuals who are employed often wonder what are the rules for working while on SSDI. Read on to learn about these rules.

If you have a pending Social Security disability claim, read our article on the process Social Security uses to evaluate disability claims.

Can You Work While Receiving SSDI?

There is no restriction on working while receiving SSDI benefits from the Social Security Administration, but you must follow strict rules. Social Security payments will cease when you do a substantial gainful activity or SGA. You will no longer be eligible for SSDI benefits when your income exceeds the SGA amount unless you are participating in a work incentive program by the SSA. SSDI recipients can return to the workforce through these programs and trial periods without compromising on their benefits.

During the trial period, when disabled individuals work with employers who have signed up for these programs, SGA earnings limits are temporarily waived, so you can continue receiving disability benefits. When disabled individuals find employment through such programs, their disability benefits are terminated. Should their medical condition worsen, they will be able to resume their previous disability payments.

The Significance Of SGA In Determining SSDI

SSA determines whether you're engaged in a SGA and whether you're entitled to benefits. If you the monthly amount you earn is higher than a defined limit after subtracting disability-related expenses from your earnings, you are considered engaged in SGA. In 2023, the substantial gainful activity amount rose by $120 to $1,350 monthly. In 2023, the SGA for blind people increased by $200 to $2,260 monthly. Keeping track of your SGA is essential since it tends to go up over time. A person's income has a greater impact on SSDI benefits with respect to the number of hours they work. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule.

Trial Period For SSDI

The SSA allows you to work for nine months over a five-year period once you begin receiving Social Security Disability benefits. If you were to return to work during that timeframe, you could continue receiving SSD benefits. Thus, in spite of your disability, you can test your endurance and strength at work. Several disabled people wish to return to work - either in a new occupation or in a modified version of their former job.

The SSA will most likely inspect your trial work period to determine whether you receive medical care and work according to your disability status. The SSA may suspend your benefits if it determines you are not disabled anymore. You can, however, reopen your original claim within three years and request an expedited review if you stop working again.

If you are applying for SSDI for the first time, read our blog post on how long it takes to get approved for SSDI.

When Do Work Hours Impact SSDI?

The Social Security Administration will deem the claimants to be "self-supporting" if they make over $1,350 monthly. When you're on SSDI, the SSA does not usually consider your work hours. Working hours may matter, however, for self-employed people or the owners of an LLC or a corporation.

Number Of Hours Self-Employed People Can Work

In the case of self-employment, you are not required to earn an hourly salary for your work hours. As a result, the Social Security Administration will review your hours worked and income each month. As a self-employed person on SSDI, you are usually allowed to work up to 45 hours a month. A typical week would involve 10 hours of work. It is also crucial that the SSA sees if you are the only employee of your company. Working too many hours is not acceptable, nor should you be earning an SGA.

Number Of Hours Employees Can Work

You don't have to worry about how many the number of hours worked if you aren't self-employed. Instead, how much you earn on a monthly basis generally determines disability eligibility. If you work for more hours despite your disability, your case could be adversely affected. You might be working nearly full-time and yet making under $1,350 a month. In such scenarios, you might be denied benefits as the SSA considers you capable of working full-time. Social Security will not accept your claim for disability if you are able to work nearly full-time.

How SSA Tracks The Working Hours Of SSDI Beneficiaries

SSA employs two tests in order to determine if you earn SGA if you are self-employed and on SSDI. Which of these two tests is used by the SSA is based on how long you have received SSDI and the date of initiation of your business. The two tests are as follows.

1. The Countable Income Test

If you have received SSDI benefits for more than 24 months, you will be required to demonstrate countable income. In a business, countable income is the profit or income generated by your productivity. For SSDI recipients who have started a freelance or small business and have been on the program for more than two years, the SSA can use the countable income test.

Each applicant’s countable income and their significant services will be examined as part of the SSA's evaluation. An individual's countable income is the amount they earn from their own work. SSA will also examine whether you provide vital services in the course of the business. You are already an important resource for your establishment if you are the sole individual working for it. You won't have a business if you don't work on it.

For businesses with more than one employee, their services are considered significant if the applicant contributes to more than half of the time required to run the business and work more than 45 hours a month. SSDI benefits will no longer be available if their countable income exceeds SGA. This rule is, however, subject to one exception. You might make more than the SGA limit and still be eligble for SSDI if you prove that the services you provide are not significant.

2. The Three Tests

SSA uses the Three Tests for individuals that are recipients of SSDI for for a duration of under two years. You will not be eligible for SSDI benefits the result of any one of these tests indicate that you are earning SGA. The three tests are as follows.

  • Significant Services and Substantial Income Test: A significant amount of income is received from your efforts in providing significant services to the business. If the SSA applies this test, qualifying for benefits may be harder. 
  • Comparability Test: As an individual with a disability, you perform tasks that are similar to those performed by others without disabilities in the same industry and under the same general conditions of employment. If the work you do currently is in the same business type as those performed by the people in your community who are not disabled, the Social Secuity Administration considers you to be earning SGA. You may be required to provide certain evidence to pass this test. 
  • Worth of Work Test: As a result of the value you provide to the business, your work is worth $1,350, or it would be worth $1,350 if you hired an employee to do the same job.

You may lose your benefits if you fail one or more of these SSA tests. For SSDI, the SSA does not pay much attention to the number of hours you work. It is most likely that the SSA will determine your eligibility based on your monthly income. You should be aware of your work hours if you are self-employed.

We hope this article addresses the question of what are the rules for working while on SSDI. Should you fail any of the above mentioned tests, it could result in the denial of disability claims or the loss of existing disability benefits. Usually, the number of work hours you put in while receiving SSDI is not much of an issue. If you are an employed individual, the SSA will more likely be interested in your monthly income. But self-imployed individuals need to keep an eye on their work hours.

The process of applying for Social Security benefits can be at times, confusing and overwhelming. If you are on SSI, read our article on whether you can get SSI And Social Security Retirement at the same time. To learn more, visit DisabilityHelp.org today!

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Cheri Hermanson
Cheri leads our team of writers in producing the best quality content there is regarding society and disability, most especially those that helps ease the quality of life for our differently-abled loved ones.
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