Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) benefit payments are a big help for most recipients who would have difficulty paying their living expenses without the monthly payments. But the benefit payment is not enough for many people to meet all their financial obligations. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) regulations allow disabled workers to earn additional income and still continue to collect their full SSDI benefits.

An experienced SSDI lawyer is a valuable partner when you think you are eligible to receive either SSD benefits or SSI payments. The Law Office of Daniel Berger is among the most experienced SSDI benefits attorneys you will find anywhere. Your disability is too important to trust a lawyer who only dabbles in Social Security Disability cases. You deserve to have an expert professional represent you in preparing and advocating for your SSD or SSI claim.

Social Security Disability (SSD) Earning Limits

For eligible workers to qualify for SSD benefit payments, you need to present evidence that you are unable to perform “substantial gainful activity.”

Well, what’s “substantial gainful activity”? The Social Security Administration sets a dollar amount which it recognizes as the threshold above which it considers income to be from a substantial gainful activity. If you earn less than the set amount, your SSD benefits continue as before. But if you earn more than the amount declared by the SSA as the cutoff, then your monthly benefit will be stopped.

In 2021, the SSA earning limit is $1,310 per month for sighted recipients and $2,190 for blind recipients.

Will All Your Earnings Count as Income When Checking If You Exceeded the Limit?

No. The fact that you are disabled entitles you to deduct any disability-related work expenses you incur. For example, someone whose disability prevents them from driving will need to find transportation to and from their workplace. If they spend $300 per month on work-related transportation, then that $300 is deducted from their total earnings when measuring their income against the SSA’s limit of $1,310.

Another example is a worker whose disability requires them to have a personal attendant while the SSD recipient is at work. The expense of employing the attendant will be deducted from the monthly earnings when determining if the worker’s income exceeded the SSD monthly limit.

What Happens If I Earn More Than the Limit?

If you are working while receiving monthly SSD benefits, and your earnings after allowed deductions exceed the SSD earning limit of $1,310 per month, then your SSDI benefit payments will stop because you are no longer “unable to perform the substantial gainful activity” which the Social Security Administration requires for you to qualify for SSD benefits. Remember that the SSA increases the limits each year to adjust for inflation. For 2022, the earnings limit will rise to $1,350 for non-blind recipients and $2,260 for blind SSD recipients.

However, even if you exceed the earnings limit and have your SSD benefit payments suspended, you remain otherwise eligible as a disabled worker. If your monthly income falls below the $1,310 threshold in 2021, you will immediately qualify for reinstatement of your benefits.

Trial Work Period Exemption (Earn More Than the SSD Limit and Keep Your Benefits)

The Social Security Administration established the Trial Work Period program as an incentive to encourage SSDI benefit recipients to attempt to return to work. But the SSD monthly earning limit of only $1,310 could be an obstacle because some workers may decline to try a job that would pay them more than is allowed under the Social Security Administration’s rules. They worry that they might be unable to succeed at the job and they will have lost their benefits.

To eliminate that problem, the SSA created the Trial Work Period (TWP) plan under which any SSD recipient can attempt a return to work and earn over the $1,310 income limit and continue to receive their monthly benefits. The rules provide for an SSD recipient to earn more than the income limit for up to nine months during a five-year period. And the nine months do not have to be consecutive. During one of your Trial Work Period months, you can earn above $1,310 (2021 limit) and still receive your full SSD benefit payment.

How does the SSA count which months are TWP months? Any month in which the SSD recipient earns more than $940 will be considered one of your nine TWP months. In 2022, the earnings amount that will trigger the use of a Trial Work Period month will rise to $970.

Attorney Daniel Berger and NY DISABILITY have 25 years’ experience representing people like you in Social Security Disability cases. Attorney Berger and his team will give you all the answers you need to understand how you can work while receiving SSD or SSI. You should always rely on the help of an experienced SSD lawyer or SSI lawyer before taking any significant action regarding SSD or SSI benefits.