Working after a finding of disability

The torso of a white middle-aged male wearing an apron with woodworking tools.

If your health issues qualified you for disability benefits, you may retain the ability to do some work. It is important to be aware that any work after a finding of disability can complicate things and if a worker is not careful, they might set themselves up for a potential overpayment.

Here are our top tips for people who are working or considering returning to work:

  • After a finding of disability, it is best to keep your earnings below the threshold that triggers a “trial work period.” In 2019, that is $880 gross a month.
  • We encourage people working while receiving SSDI to participate in Social Security’s Ticket to Work program.
  • Once you accumulate more than nine months of earnings greater than the “trial work period” threshold, you enter into a 36-month period of extended eligibility. Your benefits will cease if you are earning greater than the “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA) dollar amount, which is $1220 in 2019. If health issues cause you to drop below the SGA level within those 36 months, you should be eligible for expedited reinstatement of your benefits. Read more about expedited reinstatement in Social Security’s Red Book.
  • It is your obligation to report your wages to the Social Security Administration. You can do this online through your My Social Security account, via telephone or mail.
  • For people working while receiving SSI benefits, they need to be sure that Social Security is accurately reducing their monthly SSI check based on their wages. If your only income is SSI and the money you make from your job, the government doesn’t count the first $85 of your monthly gross earnings. Each month you work and earn wages, your SSI benefits are reduced 50 cents for every dollar that you earn over $85. Read more about how your SSI could be impacted here.
  • If you have a disability determination from an administrative law judge, be sure that the work you are performing fits within the limitations that the judge concluded were your “residual functional capacity.” Working in a job that is more challenging (physically or mentally) than these limitations could demonstrate you no longer meet the criteria for disability benefits.
  • Keep track of any health-related absences, accommodations (informal or formal) and any issues you have while working (such as disciplinary write-ups or poor customer reviews) . This may be important evidence if the government decides to review your disability eligibility because of your work efforts.
  • If you are self-employed, it is very important to keep track of how many hours you work, how much you earn, and how much you would have to pay someone to perform this work on your behalf.