Can I Still Work and Receive (SSDI) Social Security Disability Benefits?
Yes, but you need to be careful. As long as you are not earning above Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), then you may still work and receive disability benefits. For 2017, SGA levels are $1,950 gross per month for blind persons and $1,170 gross for non-blind individuals.
It is Important to Also Understand What Exactly is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)SGA is determined in two ways: (1) there is the total amount of money earned each month, and (2) it depends upon the nature of work a person is actually engaging in as well. There is little argument for a person who is physically working at a job and earning a check who is earning above the statutory limit.
But, what about the sixty-year-old who has investments that earn returns? Obviously, these are monthly and yearly earnings, but are they SGA?
Well, it depends.
For example, let's say there is a gentleman that is sixty years-old. He had a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. He worked all his life and made investments and those investments earn a return of $3,000 per month. He is claiming that due to a mental condition, he is no longer able to work. However, he mentally invests himself each month in trading stocks and bonds and increasing his investment portfolio. Is he earning above SGA? In all actuality, he is because he is using his mental capabilities to earn a living each month above SGA even though he is actually not employed by a company and going to work each and every morning.
Now, let's take the same gentleman, but he had a severe back impairment which causes him not to be able to sit a desk every day and work at any kind of job. He calls his broker from time to time and asks the broker to make some trades and he still has an income of $3,000 per month from his investments. Is he engaging in SGA? Possibly, but the likely answer is no, because he is maybe spending an hour or two per week reviewing his portfolio and having his broker actually make the trades, etc.
The point being here, is what is SGA for one person may not be for another. Second, if you are actually physically going to a job, you need to keep an eye on your gross amount each month. Remember, even if you are working part-time, those hours and the amount earned may easily go above SGA levels.
Don't Confuse SGA with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) LimitsWhile SGA will nullify either kind of Social Security disability benefits. SSI limits are treated different, and it is important to know what kind of benefits you qualify for. If you are only receiving SSI benefits due to a lack of sufficient work credits, then your ability to work and still receive benefits will be treated differently. For a single person earning more than $735.00 per month and an accumulation of more than $2,000 in nonexempt assets, he or she will no longer qualify for SSI. For a household income above $3,000 for a married couple, the disabled person will no longer qualify for benefits as well.
There is also the importance of remembering what is considered income for SSI purposes. If a person is receiving food and/or shelter, this too can be considered income. If this is the case, then a person will usually have his or her benefits cut by 1/3rd in order to make up the difference for his or her food and shelter being provided by another.
Therefore, when first deciding whether or not you are able to work and still earn benefits, you need to know exactly what Social Security disability program you qualify for. While you could be earning far less than SGA levels, you could be endangering your ability to stay on SSI benefits if that is all you qualify for.