Working While Getting Social Security Disability Benefits

March 17, 2017

Disability means an inability to work due to physical or emotional problems. So, working while getting Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) would seem to be impossible. You can’t work and not work at the same time.

The good news is that there are a few exceptions for those can do limited work. Recipients who want to see if they can work are allowed a trial work period. Review your claim with a skilled Philadelphia SSDI lawyer to learn your rights.

Substantial gainful activity

Anyone who is on SSDI is not allowed to do “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). SGA is defined, for 2017, as making more than $1,170.00 each month – or $1,920.00 if the SSDI recipient is blind. This means the SSDI recipient can make less than those total figures each month and still get some SSDI benefits.

There is a trade-off, though. The social security administration (SSA) reduces the amount of the benefit for any worker who makes over $85 a month. The benefit is a 2 for 1 reduction. This means, for example, that if the worker earns $1,085, SSDI adjusts the first $85, leaving $1,000. The benefit is then reduced by ½ of $1,000, or $500 per month.

Trial work

The SSA encourages applicants and SSDI recipients to try to work. It’s better for Social Security if the person works because it saves them a lot of money in the long run. For this reason, workers can make more than the SGA amount for a nine-month trial period. A trial-month period is any month where the worker earns $840 or more. A trial-month also covers self-employed workers who work more than 80 hours in the month – no matter how much they make. The worker is still entitled to SSDI benefits after the nine-month trial period for up to 36 months. The right to SADI benefits is still limited by the $1,170 limit.

Reinstatement for workers who were approved for SSDI

Some workers who are approved for SSDI find that they can make a substantial living. While the worker is making more than the SGA, the benefits will cease. If the worker cannot continue substantial work, the SSA gives the applicant five years to ask to have the SSDI benefits reinstated. Reinstatement means the approved SSDI recipient does not have to apply anew.


SSDI recipients can adjust their earnings to cover disability-related expenses necessary to do any work. For example, if the worker needs to pay for a service so he/she can be transported to work, that fee can be deducted.

The reporting requirements are complicated. Before considering any new work, applicants and recipients should review the exact requirements with an experienced Philadelphia Social Security Disability attorney. The attorney will also explain that working while you are applying may impact your ability to be approved for benefits. Please contact Larry Pitt & Associates, or call us at 888.PITT.LAW for help now. We serve clients throughout Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.