As with anything concerning Social Security disability, the best response I can offer is, "It's confusing."
But, let me try and explain how you actually can work and collect Social Security disability at the same time.
First, you have to understand what kind of disability you qualify for: (1) There is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is earned by acquiring the requisite amount of work credits over the course of years while working; or (2) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in which a person will not have enough work credits or does not earn enough each month under SSDI, which is needs based with very strict income limits.
Let's get SSI out of the way first. Personal income limits for SSI are $735.00 per month, $2,000.00 in non-exempt assets and no more than $3,000.00 per month in family income. The rule is basically this, dollar for dollar you earn each month comes off the monthly payment. Yes, there are rules in which your monthly payment is not decreased, but if you are working and earning a monthly income, just know a certain amount of dollars will be deducted from your monthly disability check. If you earn at any time over the statutory amount, you run the risk of your benefits being denied.
So, if you are only on SSI, you need to be very careful when working. Further, you really need to weigh the benefits of working while receiving SSI monthly payments.
Next, we need to look to SSDI.
This is the disability program in which one can actually work while receiving benefits and while one is attempting to be approved for benefits as well. However, there is something all persons receiving or applying for benefits should understand, and that is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).
SGA is a big deal. It is very important for a number of reasons: (1) if you are earning above SGA and applying for benefits, then you will not be approved; and (2) if you earn above SGA while receiving SSDI benefits (or SSI for that matter), they will be terminated and you could find yourself owing the Social Security Administration monies received while on disability.
So, what is SGA?
SGA is the income limit a person is allowed to earn and receive benefits at any stage during the disability process. As of 2017, if a person earns more than $1,170.00 per month gross, then he or she will no longer qualify for Social Security disability.
So, what's the lesson here?
If you are applying for or receiving SSDI benefits, and you want to work, then you must remain below this gross monthly amount. If at any time you go above this statutory limit, then you run the risk of either being denied benefits or termination of benefits already being received. There has been many times people have called my office and asked for representation because the Social Security Administration sent them a letter demanding repayment of benefits because they were earning above SGA levels and receiving disability. The best is advice is this, just always make sure you stay below the statutory limit and remember this is a gross and not the net amount of your paycheck each month.
We help claimants fighting for Social Security disability benefits throughout Texas and California. If you have been denied and you can no longer work due to a disabling condition, always feel free to contact us at: (888) 780-9125.