How Working Affects Your Social Security Disability Benefits

Definition of Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Benefits are financial assistance programs provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability. These benefits aim to provide a safety net for disabled individuals, ensuring they have income to meet their basic needs and maintain a certain quality of life.

A. Who is Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

To qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits, individuals must meet specific criteria set forth by the SSA. The eligibility requirements include:

  • Having a disability that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA refers to the ability to earn a certain amount of income through work.
  • The disability must be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
  • Being insured under the Social Security program, which typically requires having worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain period.

It’s important to note that Social Security Disability Benefits are not available for short-term or partial disabilities. The disability must be severe enough to prevent the individual from working for an extended period.

B. Types of Benefits Available

The SSA provides two types of disability benefit programs:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This program is designed for individuals who have worked and paid into the Social Security system. To qualify for SSDI, applicants must have accumulated sufficient work credits based on their age and work history. The benefit amount is determined by the individual’s average lifetime earnings.
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI is a needs-based program aimed at providing financial assistance to disabled individuals with limited income and resources. Unlike SSDI, SSI does not require work credits. The benefit amount is based on the individual’s financial need.

C. How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits can be a complex process, but it is crucial to follow the correct steps to ensure a successful application. Here is a general overview of the application process:

  1. Gather necessary information: Before starting the application, gather important documents such as medical records, employment history, and personal identification.
  2. Complete the application: You can apply for disability benefits online at the SSA’s website or by visiting a local Social Security office. Provide accurate and detailed information about your medical condition, work history, and other relevant details.
  3. Submit supporting documentation: Include any medical records, test results, or other evidence that supports your disability claim. It’s essential to provide comprehensive documentation to strengthen your case.
  4. Follow up: After submitting your application, stay in touch with the SSA to ensure they have received all necessary documents and information. They may request additional information or schedule a medical evaluation.
  5. Decision and appeals: The SSA will review your application and make a decision regarding your eligibility for benefits. If your application is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision within a specific timeframe.

It’s worth noting that the process can be lengthy, and it may take several months to receive a decision on your application. It’s crucial to be patient and diligent throughout the process.

For more detailed information on Social Security Disability Benefits and the application process, you can visit the official Social Security Administration website at

How Working Affects Your Social Security Disability Benefits

When you receive Social Security Disability benefits, it’s natural to wonder how working may impact your eligibility and payments. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has established various work incentives and programs to encourage individuals with disabilities to return to work while still receiving essential financial support. In this section, we will explore the different aspects related to working and its effects on your Social Security Disability benefits.

A. Overview of Work Incentives

The SSA offers work incentives to help individuals with disabilities transition back into the workforce without losing their disability benefits right away. These incentives provide flexibility and support during the transition period. Here are some important work incentives:

  • Trial Work Period (TWP): During the TWP, you can test your ability to work for up to nine months while still receiving your full disability benefits.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE): After completing the TWP, you enter the EPE, which lasts for 36 months. During this period, you can continue to receive benefits for any month your earnings fall below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limits.
  • Expedited Reinstatement (EXR): If your benefits stopped due to work, but you’re unable to continue working due to your disability within five years, you can request expedited reinstatement of benefits without filing a new application.

B. Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Limits

The SSA sets specific income limits known as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limits each year. If your earnings exceed these limits, it is considered that you are engaged in substantial gainful activity and no longer eligible for disability benefits. For 2021, the SGA limit is $1,310 per month for non-blind individuals and $2,190 per month for blind individuals.

Learn more about SGA limits:

C. Continuing Disability Review (CDR) Processes

The SSA periodically reviews disability cases to ensure that individuals are still eligible for benefits. These reviews, known as Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs), assess whether your medical condition has improved and if you are capable of substantial gainful activity. It’s important to report any changes in your medical condition or work activity promptly to the SSA to avoid potential overpayments or loss of benefits.

Learn more about CDR processes:

D. Ticket to Work Program

The Ticket to Work program is designed to assist Social Security Disability beneficiaries in finding employment, vocational rehabilitation services, and other support. By participating in the program, you can explore work opportunities without worrying about immediate loss of benefits. The program connects you with employment networks that provide job placement assistance, vocational training, and ongoing support during your journey back to work.

Learn more about the Ticket to Work program:

E. Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE) Deduction

If you have expenses related to your disability that are necessary for you to work, you may qualify for the Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE) deduction. These expenses can include medical devices, medications, transportation costs, and other items or services directly related to your ability to work. The IRWE deduction reduces your countable income, potentially allowing you to remain eligible for disability benefits even if your earnings exceed the SGA limits.

Learn more about the IRWE deduction:

F. Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) Program

The Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) program is designed to help individuals with disabilities achieve specific work goals by setting aside income and resources. By creating a PASS plan, you can allocate funds to cover education, vocational training, equipment, and services needed to reach your employment objectives. The PASS program allows you to exclude these resources when determining your eligibility for disability benefits.

Learn more about the PASS program:

Understanding how working affects your Social Security Disability benefits is crucial for making informed decisions about returning to work. The work incentives, SGA limits, CDR processes, Ticket to Work program, IRWE deduction, and PASS program provide valuable support and flexibility during your transition back into the workforce. For more detailed information and personalized guidance, it’s recommended to consult with a Social Security representative or disability advocate.

Resources and Assistance Available to Those With Disabilities Who Want to Work

Individuals with disabilities often face unique challenges when it comes to finding and maintaining employment. However, there are various resources and assistance programs available to help them overcome these obstacles and achieve their career goals. In this section, we will discuss some of the key support services and programs that can provide valuable assistance to individuals with disabilities who want to work.

A. State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies

State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies play a crucial role in assisting individuals with disabilities in their journey towards employment. These agencies offer a wide range of services tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual. Some of the services provided by VR agencies include:

  • Vocational counseling and guidance
  • Assessment of skills, abilities, and interests
  • Job training and placement assistance
  • Assistive technology and devices
  • Transportation services
  • Supported employment services

Each state has its own VR agency, and you can find your state’s agency by visiting the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) website. These agencies can provide valuable support and resources to individuals with disabilities who are seeking employment.

B. Ticket to Work Program Providers and Employment Networks (ENs)

The Ticket to Work program is another essential resource for individuals with disabilities who want to enter or re-enter the workforce. This program is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and offers various employment support services through approved providers called Employment Networks (ENs).

By participating in the Ticket to Work program, individuals with disabilities can receive a range of services, including:

  • Vocational counseling and career planning
  • Job training and skill development
  • Job placement assistance
  • Work incentives counseling
  • Continued healthcare coverage through Medicare or Medicaid

ENs are organizations that partner with the SSA to deliver these services. They can assist individuals with disabilities in navigating the complexities of returning to work while ensuring they maintain necessary benefits. To find ENs in your area, you can use the Ticket to Work Provider Directory.

C. Other Support Services

In addition to state VR agencies and the Ticket to Work program, there are various other support services available to individuals with disabilities who want to work. These include:

  • Job Accommodations: The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides free consulting services to help individuals with disabilities and employers identify workplace accommodations that can enable successful employment.
  • Disability Employment Initiatives: The Department of Labor offers several initiatives aimed at increasing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, such as the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) and the Apprenticeship Inclusion Models (AIM).
  • Community-Based Organizations: Various community-based organizations specialize in providing employment support services to individuals with disabilities. Examples include local disability advocacy groups, independent living centers, and nonprofit organizations.

These additional support services can further enhance the resources available to individuals with disabilities and provide them with valuable guidance and assistance in their pursuit of employment.

Remember, every individual’s situation is unique, and it’s essential to explore all available resources and programs to find the best fit for your specific needs. By taking advantage of these resources, individuals with disabilities can overcome barriers and achieve their employment goals.