Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be crucial to your financial survival when you cannot work and earn a living because of a disability. If applying for SSDI while working, even if part-time or at a job paying much less than you earned before becoming disabled, you need to consult with an SSDI attorney at NY Disability.

The money you earn may affect your ability to qualify for SSDI or cause Social Security to suspend your benefits you were already approved to receive. The following information gives you a better understanding of why people applying for benefits ask, “How much can I earn on SSDI?

What is SSDI?

SSDI provides monthly payments to individuals unable to work because of a disability caused by a physical or mental health impairment. Besides being disabled, you must have established a work history showing that you earned income through employment or self-employment on which you paid Social Security payroll taxes. If you qualify for benefits, you may continue to receive them for as long as the disability prevents you from returning to work. Disability benefits automatically convert to Social Security retirement once you reach full retirement age.

What is a disability under SSDI regulations?

For Social Security to evaluate your application and determine that you are disabled, it must find that all of the following apply:

  • You have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments.
  • The impairments are expected to last or have already lasted for at least 12 continuous months, or the impairments must be expected to result in death.
  • You are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of the impairments.

Federal regulations define substantial gainful activity as work activity during which you do significant physical or mental activities. Standing, sitting, walking, and remembering things are examples of substantial activities. These activities become gainful when you do them in return for a payment in the form of earnings or, in the case of someone engaged in self-employment, for profit. The regulations state that an activity may be gainful even if you do not get paid doing it as long as it is something that usually is done for profit or pay.

Depending on what you earn SSDI may use it to determine that you engage in substantial gainful activity and do not qualify for benefits. For 2021, a person receiving or applying for SSDI benefits earning who earns more than $1,310 a month from work or self-employment is considered as engaging in substantial gainful activity. Individuals who are statutorily blind may earn up to $2,190 a month.

Working while receiving SSDI

An SSDI lawyer at NY Disability can help you to explore options available through Social Security that allow you to work without jeopardizing your benefits. One of them is a trial work period that lets you determine whether you can engage in work activities without losing SSDI benefits.

As long as you notify Social Security that you are working, you have nine months as a test period to work. The months do not have to be consecutive, but the trial period ends in 60 months regardless of whether or not you used the entire nine-month period.

Any month in which you earn more than $940 is counted as one of the nine months. Whatever you earn during a trial month does not affect your SSDI benefits. In other words, the substantial gainful activity threshold of $1,310 a month if you are disabled or $2,190 if you are blind would not apply.

If you reach the end of the nine-month trial work period, you can continue to work under an extended period of eligibility of up to 36 months additional months. Your SSDI benefits will continue to be paid for any month that you do not exceed the substantial gainful activity earnings limits. You will not receive SSDI for any month during the extended period that you exceed the earnings limits.

You need not be concerned about having to reapply for SSDI and go through the entire evaluation process all over again should you discover that your medical condition does enable you to continue working. You have up to five years to ask Social Security to restart your SSDI payments without needing to file a new application or be subjected to delays as your medical condition is reviewed. Expedited reinstatement avoids delays in restoring benefits.

Speak with an experienced SSDI attorney

When you have questions about Social Security disability benefits or SSI, we can help. An SSDI lawyer from NY Disability cuts through confusing federal regulations and complicated procedures to give you clear, easily understood advice and guidance. A consultation with our SSDI attorney takes the guesswork out of “How much can I earn on SSDI?” by giving you accurate advice you can trust.