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Can I Work While Receiving Disability Benefits?

It’s a common misconception that individuals receiving disability benefits are not allowed to work. The truth is, some people with disabilities can still engage in employment while also receiving support from government programs.

Disability benefits are intended to provide financial assistance for those who have significant limitations in their ability to work due to physical or mental impairments. However, these benefits are not designed to completely replace income from employment. Because of this, you may want to work even if you’re on disability.

Understanding Disability Benefits

There are various types of disability benefits available, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is based on an individual's work history and earnings, while SSI is a needs-based program for individuals with limited income and resources.

Regardless of the type of disability benefits received, there are rules and regulations in place that govern how much an individual can earn while still maintaining their eligibility for benefits. These rules are intended to balance the need for financial support with the opportunity for individuals to engage in meaningful employment.

The SSDI Trial Work Period

For those receiving SSDI, there is a trial work period (TWP) where individuals are allowed to test their ability to work without losing their disability benefits. During this period, which lasts for nine months within a five-year period, individuals can earn any amount of money without affecting their SSDI eligibility.

Substantial Gainful Activity

After the TWP ends, individuals must adhere to the substantial gainful activity (SGA) rule. This rule sets a limit on the amount of income an individual can earn while still receiving disability benefits. In 2023, the SGA limit for non-blind individuals is $1,470 per month and $2,460 for blind individuals.

Work Incentives

In addition to TWP and SGA rules, there are also various work incentives available to help individuals with disabilities transition back into the workforce. These incentives include:

  • Trial Work Period Extension: Individuals who need additional time to test their ability to work can request a TWP extension.
  • Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE): Certain expenses related to a person's disability, such as medical devices or transportation costs, can be deducted from earnings when determining SGA.
  • Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS): This program allows individuals to set aside income and resources for a specific work goal without affecting their eligibility for SSI.

Consult with a Lawyer Who Can Help

If you receive disability benefits and are considering going back to work, it’s important to consult with a legal professional. An experienced disability attorney can help you understand the rules and regulations and determine how working may impact your benefits.

If you have any further questions or need personalized assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out to Smolich and Smolich. We are dedicated to helping individuals like you achieve a smooth transition back into the workforce while ensuring the protection of your disability benefits.

Contact us today to request a free consultation.