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Can we earn any money while on social security disability?

New York, NY |

Hello Dear lawyer

I am not able to work and am recieving SSD. I sometimes am offered little bookeeping jobs and may be able to do this type of work very short term. If I do will I lose benefits? The jobs offer little pay. I read we can earn up to $800.00 but fear I'll lose benefits.

What are the rules and what advice is best

Thank you

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Congress would like to see disability recipients get back to work and there are a variety of programs designed to help them do just that. For instance, you can work with a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Organization (WIPA). These are community-based organizations that receive grants from SSA to provide all Social Security and SSI disability beneficiaries (including transition-to-work aged youth) with free access to work incentives planning and assistance. You can find contact information in our service provider directory at the Social Security website at: www.socialsecurity.gov/work.

    Don't go it alone. Earnings can be interpreted by SSA as evidence of fraud (if you don't report your work activity) or an ability to work. It is best to go to your local district office before you begin working. Ask about a "ticket to work." See also the link below for specific resources if you want to work while getting SSDI and/or SSI benefits.


  2. The basic answer is that you can work under limited circumstances. Keep in mind that few things are ever black and white under Social Security's rules.

    As Ms. Villalon says in her answer, the Social Security Disability system is designed to encourage people to go back to work. I always encourage my clients to try and return to work. Tell Social Security you are trying to work, and keep all of your pay stubs/receipts. Expect Social Security to ask for that information or ask your employer for that information.

    In addition to her comments, you should be aware that you can have what is called a "trial work period" for up to 9 months in a 5 year period. Social Security will not terminate your benefits during a trial work period. Basically, if you earn more than $720 in any month, that month will count toward your trial work period. After that 9 month period, if you work and earn less than the government's limit for substantial work in the next 36 months, you should continue to qualify for a monthly benefit.

    In 2010, if you earn more than $1000 per month in 2010, you are engaging in what Social Security calls "substantial gainful activity." That means that you will are working and will not get a benefit for that month if it is in the 36 month period following your trial work period.

    Keep in mind that any work that you do while you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits can raise red flags. Generally, you should (and must) tell the government about working. It is not necessarily a bad thing to work. Again, I encourage my clients to work, because they may find something that pays them more than Social Security. Just keep in mind that the government will review your claim from time to time, and you need to keep good records to show them how much you earned and, if you performance was limited, keep records about why you were limited in doing the job or how your employer gave you special accommodations that would not exist in a competitive job market.

    Social Security has a great online pamphlet that explains their rules. It is called " Working While Disabled ," and you can find it at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10095.html.