How Working Affects Social Security Benefits

How Working Affects Social Security Benefits


A disability certainly does not inhibit an individual from wanting to work. But, for those individuals receiving Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), there may be ramifications of working in relation to eligibility for disability benefits. It is important to be aware of these rules regarding eligibility when deciding whether or not to enter the workforce.

Trial Work Period

A person may continue receiving full Social Security benefits during a trial work period. During this period, a person determines if they have the ability to work for at least nine months. In 2014, a trial work month was any month in which total earnings were over $770. The trial period continues until the individual has worked nine months in a 60-month period. The amount that the individual earns during the trial work period will not reduce the amount of Social Security benefits. The only requirements to continue receiving benefits are that the individual reports his or her work activity and continues to have a disability.

After Trial Work Period

Following the end of the trial work period, for the next 36 months, it may still be possible for an individual who is working to collect benefits. However, an individual may not receive benefits if their monthly earnings exceed $1,070 ($1,800 if the individual is blind). Importantly, work expenses related to the individual’s disability are deducted from monthly earnings before making the eligibility determination. Therefore, a person may have earnings higher than the maximum allowed, as long as the expenses bring their earnings below the thresholds listed above.

The following must be reported promptly to the Social Security Administration (SSA) by an individual receiving Social Security benefits:

  1. the start and end dates of employment;
  2. any change in duties, hours, or pay; or
  3. if the individual begins paying work expenses related to their disability.

If an individual’s benefits end because their earnings are too high, there is a five-year period in which the SSA may be asked to reinstate benefits immediately if the individual can no longer work due to their disability.

Supplemental Security Income

Pursuant to §1611 of the Social Security Act, individuals who have low income and are older than 65, blind or disabled are eligible for SSI payments. The SSA does not include the first $65 when determining the SSI benefit amount. Further, the SSA only counts one-half of anything earned over $65, which means only $1 is reduced from the benefit for every $2 earned over $65. Additionally, under §1619(b), if an individual’s earnings are not high enough to replace both Medicaid and SSI benefits, the individual may still continue to receive Medicaid coverage. This is true even if the earnings of the individual are high enough to make them ineligible for SSI cash payments.

Contact us with any Questions

At the Klok Law Firm LLC, we have extensive experience in the area of Social Security Disability benefits and want to put that experience to work for you. Please contact us with any questions you may have.