Limits on Working Hours While on Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While both programs are designed to provide financial assistance for those with disabilities, they differ in eligibility requirements, specifically when it comes to work. This article explores working while on disability benefits, focusing on SSDI.

Understanding Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

The key factor determining whether you can work and receive SSDI benefits is substantial gainful activity (SGA). The SSA defines SGA as the ability to perform work that pays more than a certain amount, adjusted annually based on the national average wage index. Individuals exceeding the SGA limit are generally not considered disabled for SSDI.

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SGA Limits and Blindness

The SGA limit for non-blind individuals in 2024 is $1,470 per month. For blind individuals applying for SSDI, the SGA limit is significantly higher at $2,420 per month (as of 2024). This distinction acknowledges the additional challenges faced by blind individuals in the workforce.

How the SSA Evaluates Your Ability to Work

The SSA doesn’t solely focus on your current work hours or past work history when assessing your eligibility for SSDI. They conduct a comprehensive evaluation considering:

  • The severity of your impairment(s): Your medical records and other evidence must demonstrate a severe physical or mental impairment that significantly limits your ability to work.
  • Expected duration of impairment: The impairment must be expected to last at least twelve months or result in death.
  • Your residual functional capacity (RFC): An RFC is an assessment of your remaining physical and mental abilities and the types of work you can still perform, despite your limitations.
  • Transferable skills and work experience: The SSA considers whether your skills and experience can be applied to other forms of employment.

Can You Work Part-Time and Receive SSDI Benefits?

Limits on Working Hours While on Disability

Technically, there’s no set limit on the number of hours you can work while receiving SSDI. However, exceeding the SGA earnings limit through part-time work will disqualify you from benefits.

For example, if you earn $10 per hour and work more than 147 hours per month ( $1,470 / $10 ), your earnings would surpass the SGA limit for 2024, potentially jeopardizing your benefits.

Incentive Programs for Returning to Work

The SSA recognizes that some individuals with disabilities may want to return to work gradually. They offer work incentive programs such as Ticket to Work to help beneficiaries transition back into the workforce while maintaining some of their benefits and healthcare coverage.

When to Report Your Work Activity

It’s crucial to inform the SSA immediately if you start working or experience any changes in your work activity or income. Failure to report such changes may result in benefit overpayments that you’ll be obligated to repay or even suspension of your benefits.

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Seeking Legal Counsel

Social Security disability benefits can be complex, and the rules governing work activity can be intricate. Consulting with an experienced disability lawyer can be beneficial, especially if you have questions about working while receiving SSDI or are planning to return to work. A lawyer can advise you on the potential impact of work activity on your benefits and help you navigate the application or appeals process.

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