Can I Work While I Am Receiving Disability Benefits?

Yes, you can do a limited amount of work and still get disability benefits.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages work activity and there are special program rules and work incentives that help you try to return to work while still receiving monthly disability payments.  

If you try to work but have to stop working because of your disability, SSA generally considers it an unsuccessful work attempt. However, if you are able to do substantial gainful work, you are not disabled. The presumed substantial gainful work earnings amount in 2019 is $1,220 per month ($2,040 if you’re blind). There are specific rules for self-employment.  SSA may deduct from your earned income any impairment related work expenses you pay for certain items, such as equipment and services, that you need in order to work.  SSA may also deduct the value of any subsidy, which is extra support that an employer provides you to do your work.  Contact SSA to let them know that you are working to avoid problems, such as being overpaid. Read the SSA publication Working While Disabled for more information. Since the rules are complicated, consult with a Social Security professional before you begin working to know how working may affect your benefits. 

Working While Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a financial needs-based program; the rules for this program allow you to continue to work for a limited time while you are disabled.  You may continue to receive SSI payments until your earnings, added with any other income, exceed the SSI income limits. When you work, your SSI benefits are adjusted based on your income after a few deductions.  Your first $65 in earnings are disregarded and, after that, your SSI benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 earned.  Your first $20 in unearned income is also disregarded and, after that, SSI benefits are reduced dollar-for-dollar. It may be the case that due to your earnings, your monthly SSI check will be substantially reduced or you may not be eligible for an SSI check some months. 

Whether you are working or not, SSA conducts regularly scheduled continuing disability medical reviews for those receiving SSI, unless you are participating in the Ticket to Work program. 

 Working While Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is the program you pay into when you do qualifying work activity.  Your SSDI benefit amount is based on past earnings. SSA has work incentives that encourage you to try working again. Two important work incentives under SSDI are:

  • Trial Work Period (TWP) – During the TWP, you can work and still keep your full monthly SSDI check. The TWP lasts for 9 months in a 60-month timeframe.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) – After the TWP, there is an EPE during which you can receive your full SSDI check for any month on which you were not able to earn substantial gainful activity. The EPE lasts for up to a 36-month timeframe.

Once you complete the EPE, SSA will begin conducting continuing disability reviews for medical improvement.

For more information about these and other work incentives, as well as other work options, see and go to 

Talk to a Social Security Representative

Before you decide to work while receiving Social Security disability benefits, consult with an experienced Social Security representative at Cardea Disability, LLC. Call us today at 334-440-6261 or use our contact form at to send us a message.

By: Michele Schaefer, Cardea Disability, LLC

Published on November 25, 2019