Employment Guidelines for Social Security Disability Recipients

Disability employment allows individuals who are receiving Social Security Disability benefits to receiving additional income while maintaining their current level of benefits. Disabled workers have three options for work while receiving disability payments: work for an approved employer through the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work program, find a job on their own, or be self-employed. The amount of money they are allowed to make while still receiving Social Security Disability benefits depends upon whether they work for a business or work for themselves, and the state in which they live.

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Working for an Employer

Disabled individuals have many options for part-time work while receiving Social Security Disability Income. Most individuals can work part-time and stay within the income guidelines set by their state. While many disabled people utilize the Ticket to Work Program, they may also find their own employment. If an individual chooses to seek their own employment, they should be aware of income guidelines before accepting work. These income guidelines are available from their local Social Security Administration office, or on the SSA’s website.

Self-Employed Disabled Workers

Disability employment options for the self-employed are as varied as the disabilities these workers face. A self-employed individual can create a job that fits their particular needs and gives them flexibility usually not available in a traditional work environment. For example, they can take breaks as often as necessary, work from their bedrooms if they aren't feeling well, and avoid the cost and difficulty of finding transportation to and from a traditional job.

The Social Security Administration has different rules regarding self-employment, as opposed to working for a business. The guidelines for income are slightly lower than those who are working for a business.

Considerations for Full-Time Work

Some people may find that their accommodations when working for an employer allow them to work comfortably full-time. If a worker is receiving Social Security Disability Income and working full time, they need to report their earnings to their local SSA office. Individuals who make more than the income guidelines for their state may eventually need to repay benefits they received while exceeding the state guidelines.

If you want to work full time and you are receiving Social Security Disability Income, speak with your local SSA office. They can explain your options and advise you of your state’s income guidelines. In addition, they can answer any employment-related questions that you may have.

Giving Up Social Security Disability Income

It is natural to want to keep Social Security Disability Income when you are permanently disabled because it provides a safety net, but for some, the income guidelines are too strict. Some individuals simply have to work more to pay for their expenses, and they may need to eventually decide whether they should give up their SSDI benefits.

If you decide that you want to make more money than your state income guidelines allow, you may not have to reapply for benefits in the future, should you become unable to work again. Current SSA guidelines state that if you give up your full-time job within five years and wish to reclaim your benefits, you may do so without reapplying.

In addition, if you want to “try out” a job after you have become disabled, you may do so for 18 months before deciding whether you wish to continue. Depending upon your income at the job, you may be able to retain your current benefit level while working the first month at the new job. The trial work period continues until you have used nine cumulative trial work months within a 60-month period.

Medicare recipients may continue receiving this benefit as long as they pay the monthly premium, even if they stop receiving Social Security Disability Income. This helps many disabled individuals, who would not otherwise be able to obtain other insurance due to pre-existing conditions, maintain their current level of medical care.

2 Sources
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  1. Social Security Administration. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) work incentives.

  2. Social Security Administration. Working while disabled: how we can help.

By Charlotte Gerber
Charlotte Gerber is a disability writer and advocate. She has made a career of educating the public about various diseases and disabilities.