How Working Affects Disability Benefits

If you are earning income from employment that exceeds a certain amount, then you are said to be engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity and you may not qualify for disability benefits.

Substantial Gainful Activity

When applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is one of the factors that will be used to determine your eligibility for disability benefits. Basically, if you are earning income from employment that exceeds a certain amount, then you are said to be engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity and you may not qualify for disability benefits.

In 2009, the amount of monthly earnings needed to be considered as Substantial Gainful Activity is $980 for non-blind people and $1,640 for statutorily blind individuals. This means that if you are not blind and you are making over $980 per month, then you are considered to be engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity. This amount increases every year with increases in the national average wage index. SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind applies to SSDI and SSI benefits.

Trial Work Period (SSDI)

If you are collecting disability benefits and you want to try and return to work, the Social Security Administration has a “Trial Work Period” program. The Trial Work Period is designed to encourage individuals who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to try and return to work. While doing a trial work period, you are allowed to work and earn money that exceeds the SGA amount and still collect your full SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration does not consider employment during the trial work period as showing that the disability has ended until work has been performed in at least 9 months (not necessarily consecutive) in a rolling 60-month period. In 2009, any month in which earnings exceed $700 is considered a month of services for an individual’s trial work period. This amount changes every year.

SSI Payment Adjustments

The amount of your SSI payment is based on how much other income you have. When your other income goes up, your SSI payments usually go down. So when you earn more than the SSI limit, your payments will stop for those months. If your only income besides SSI is the money you make from employment, then the first $85 you earn in a month are not counted. Half of what you earn (after the $85 is deducted) is withheld from your SSI payment.

For example: if you earned $1000 from employment in a month (and that was your only earnings besides your SSI payment), $85 would be ignored and the remainder ($915) would be divided in half to determine the adjustment to your SSI payment. So, your next SSI payment would be reduced by $457.50.

Returning to Work

After you have been approved for disability benefits, if you go back to work and stop receiving your SSDI or SSI payments and at a later date, you become unable to work again because of your medical condition, you can ask social security to start your SSDI or SSI payments again. As long as it has been less than 5 years since your last SSDI or SSI payment, you will not have to file a new disability application.

Schedule a Free Consultation

For experienced legal representation and an aggressive pursuit of your SSDI or SSI claims, contact Jorgensen Law with offices in San Diego, Los Angeles or Riverside, California. For assistance, schedule a free consultation at our office by calling 1-888-855-2948.

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