You are here

What happens if I try to go back to work?

Going Back to Work

If you’re on disability, then you’ve come to count on your monthly benefits as a consistent source of income to pay bills and take care of everyday living expenses for your family.

The thought of trying to return to work may be exciting to you, but it can also be fear inducing if you’re uncertain how working will affect your benefits.

Blue Book vs. Medical Vocational Allowance Approvals

The first thing to know is that the manner in which you were granted benefits affects whether you can go back to work and still receive disability. If you were approved under a “medical vocational allowance,” then you’re considered unable to work in ANY job.

In other words, returning to work would mean your benefits could be cancelled. If you qualified for Social Security Disability under a standard listing in the Blue Book however, then you have work options and can still receive benefits.

If you receive Social Security disability benefits and go back to work, you may enter the trial work period.

Work Incentive and Assistance Programs

The Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages self-sufficiency by providing work incentive and assistance programs. These programs help you to protect your benefit eligibility while making work attempts or, in some cases, while working on full-time basis.

SSA work incentive and assistance programs include Ticket to Work, PASS, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Trial Work, among others.

Trial Work and SSDI Benefits

Although the SSA encourages you to test your limits, there are things that can trigger a pause in your payments or an end to your benefits.

If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you can work as long as you don’t earn more than a certain amount each month. That amount changes each year. In 2020, the threshold is $910. Any month in which you earn more counts toward your total “trial work period.”

Trial work is a total of nine month. If you exceed the earnings limit in ANY nine months WITHIN a five-year time frame, then your trial work period is over and the SSA evaluates your condition to determine if you are still disabled.

  • If they find you aren’t disabled and therefore able to participate in “substantial gainful activity,” (SGA), then your disability benefits end. The SGA limit is also adjusted each year. For 2020, SGA is $1,260/ per month for a single, non-blind individial.
  • If however they find you are still disabled, then you remain eligible for benefits for 60 months and will get disability as usual, as long as you do not earn over SGA each month. In any month in which you do hit SGA, you won’t receive a disability payment, but you’re still eligible for benefits regardless.

If you have to stop working due to disability and you’re within your 60-month window after a trial work period, then you can immediately go back on disability without submitting a new application.

Working While on SSI

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, any work you do can decrease the amount of your monthly benefits. This is because SSI is “need-based.”

Your finances determine whether you qualify and how much you can receive each month.

  • Employment income that pushes you over the eligibility limit in any month will mean you don’t receive SSI that month, but you remain eligible.
  • If your income ever hits double the amount of available monthly SSI, then you will no longer be eligible for benefits.
  • Income from employment that doesn’t exceed eligibility limits may still cause your monthly SSI payment to be lower. This is because the SSA adjusts your payment according to a standard formula.

There is no trial work period with SSI, so there is no limit on how long you can work and remain eligible for benefits. If you lose SSI and later become disabled again, you can restart without a new application, as long as it’s within 12 months of when your benefits originally ended.

Get Assistance in Understanding the Rules

Disability is often hard for applicants to understand. The rules get even more challenging when talking about working and receiving benefits at the same time.

A Social Security attorney or advocate can assist with deciphering the rules and can help you protect your eligibility for benefits.

Comments

My son is drawing disability due to an accident causing brain damage he wants to find a part time job how will this affect him

Hi Patsy,
So long as your son is on SSDI benefits and makes less than $1,130 per month, he will remain eligible. If he is on SSI benefits, any earned income more than $65 will affect his SSI benefits.

I am wanting to try to attempt to go back to work part time, but I don't know if I can do it or not and I'm afraid I will loose my SSI while doing so. How can I get more info regarding this?

Hi. I'm considering trying to go back to work after 6 years of being disabled. I received a "ticket to work" letter, but am wondering if I can do the "trial work" instead? It looks like ticket to work will take longer for me to get a job and finances are terrible. If I do trial work period do I need to call SSI before getting a job or can I just get the job and send in earnings when due? Also I'm not understanding how I can't make more than I receive, pretty much, in benefits even if I only work 2 months only to find out I'm incabable. It says if I make more then I will be unable to qualify? Is this correct the way I'm understanding it?
Thank you.

Hi Cassandra,
Yes, you may be eligible to work while receiving SSI benefits, you may not be eligible for every SSA work. It may be a good idea to contact the SSA and find out what programs you can use and how you would be able to keep your benefits while working.

Is the Ticket to Work program and the trial work period, EPE independent of each other? I am currently in TTW but had to go from full time to part time employment. So even if my EN determines that they can no longer help me, does my trial work period still apply? From what I am reading, I can work nine months and earn whatever and still get ssdi.

Hi there,
If you're earning less that what the SSA would consider a "successful" trial work period month, you may not have that month counted for your trial work period.

I would like to know if I could do in home care 46hrs a month at $25.96 an hour I am receiving SSI disability right now it mostly mental but there are a few physical conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis could you please give me some advice on how about doing this what all I will need to do thank you

Hi Alena,

You can begin to work and continue to receive SSI benefits as long as your wages and other resources do not exceed the SSA’s income limit for SSI ($735 per month for individuals and $1,103 for couples) however, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced in proportion to your income.

Best Wishes,
Eric

i am on ssdi benefits, i have three dependents, if i go back to work on the ticket to work program will they still get there money each month.

Hi Keith,

You can go back to work and be on SSDI, but your salary cannot exceed the monthly SGA amount which is $1,170/month.

Best Wishes,
Eric

I worked my nine month work trial period. My employment has been unsteady. I attempted to work as an LPN for 4 months and was terminted due to my complex PTSD. I made 12000 during this time and reported it to SSA. I even delivered them a notice of my begining date, my position and my hours. No one ever said anything nor informed me of what the income for wages was I could earn. Then I reverted back to hairdressing and earned $1060 for three months and left that job for another hairsalon and this last month i made over $1300. I also reported this as well. Can someone explain to me what the amount of the SGA income is. This is confusing no one has ever explained it. This month will be the last month I work as my sister is terminal and I have to move back up north? What do I do? Am i going to lose my benefits because of my wages. I was informed that I can make $1170 per month after I submitted all of my wages after a nurse and my benefits were not stopped.i have been completely honest and delivered all of my wages. Then I am informed that I can only make $800 per month. I will no longer be working. I can t keep a job past three months even though I can t. What do I do if my benefits are stopped? I am so confused about what I can earn and not earn.if i I have an overpayment I intend on paying ot back of course. Please someone help me.

Hi Jodie,
You may be able to start receiving SSDI benefits again, you may want to contact your local SSA office regarding this.

I've been on SSDI since 2012. I want to return to work. Possibly even have a job offer as administrative assistant at small office. Given where I live, my salary would exceed the SGA limit. I obviously would inform SSA. My question is, do my benefits stop due to my salary immediately? Even though I didn't go through ticket to work, will I be in the 9 month trial period and still receive benefits? I'm really confused on the trial periods, etc when salary would exceed the monthly limit.

Thanks and I love this site.

Hi Brenda,
Your benefits may not stop immediately, but the SSA would request repayment of any money that they may have paid you after you had become ineligible for benefits. It may be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding your intention to return to work, as they can give you specific information based on your case.

Hi Brenda,
Sorry about that, you would not, as you would be eligible for benefits during the trial work period, even if you earn over SGA.

Hey,
I receive SSDI. I want to do some part-time work for a while for my data entry skill set. What I'm finding in my area are PT jobs that range from 20-30hrs/wk @ $11-13.50/hr potentially making $880-$1620, which not only puts me in a TWP making more than $840/month but also earning more than the $1170/month SGA limit during that TWP on the higher end of my potential job prospects.

I have a mental illness and get overwhelmed quite easily and can usually last only about 6 months at a job even part time. So I don't see the jobs I'm seeking out lasting longer than the 9 month TWP or even getting to 9 months.

My question is if I somehow end up landing the higher end (higher pay & closer to 30hrs/wk) job, both putting me in a TWP & making more than the SGA limit but quit the job around 6-7 months in, will I lose my SSDI benefits?

Because I can't work full time. I probably won't even last the 6 months.

Like I literally just want a few extra hundred bucks a month in my pockets for unexpected expenses. These are the only jobs I can mentally handle and those are the only hours and hourly rate terms I've found.

Hi Courtney,
You may be able to do so, however it may be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding your plan as they can give you information specific to your particular case.

I'm 50 and disabled due to ALOT of ailments. I receive disability benefit. I want a divorce. My husband will start receiving his social security in Feb. If we are divorced by then, am I entitled to any spousal benefits.

Hello,
If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if they have remarried) if:

You are unmarried;
You are age 62 or older;
Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and
The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.

-Eric

Hi. I wanting to try to go back to work soon. I want to know when you do this, must you work in a place SSD approves or can you try to go back to your old job while trying to work slowly building up the tolerance and testing the waters. Please advise.

Hi Mark,

You can still work and be on SSD, but your monthly income cannot exceed the 2017 SGA limit which is $1,170/Month.

-Eric

Hi I am on SSDI since 06' and I have worked for less than 2 years at a part time job. What I make each month has always falls beneath the 1170. I am not doing any ticket to work program or any other programs, is that ok or would ss take away my benefits because I do not use any incentive programs? Thank you.

Hi Jess,
You do not need to enroll in the ticket to work program, if you receive SSDI benefits and make over $840 in one month it may be counted towards your trial work period.

I have been on SSI for almost 8 years, last year I decided to try to go back to work. I was fired from every job I had, holding each job less than 2 months. I have an older son up the hill, and child support kicked on for that while I was on a suspension of SSI due to some paperwork I hadn't gotten back to them in time. Since then, Ive straightened things out with Social Security. BUT as far as child support is concerned they are trying to say that me returning to work last year means I am able to work. Clearly I can't hold down work and my work history of present matches my work history that I used to help me get on SSI in the past. Nothing has changed with my disability, I am still disabled. If I was working and only holding jobs one or two months how an they be determining that I'm able to work? Obviously it was an attempt to return to work but it didn't work out. I am confused how they aren't dropping the case now that I'm no longer working and trying to say that I am able to work?!?! Please help! I just did a medical evaluation for my medical review for SSI and was told to have the evaluator fill out papers for C.S. to go with it but the evaluator couldn't fill out the paperwork as it requests for a doctor that I see regularly. I just got a hold of a new one and the old one I haven't seen in a year or so, there have been many things going on with my situation such as moving to a new part of town and my mother passing away. I just need to know what I need to do to prove to child support that I'm not able to work and figured someone might know what constitutes me being able to work and not to be confused with my attempt to return to work. Thanks, Nathan.

Hi Nathan,
You may want to contact your old doctor to transfer records and get any information from him that you need, but you may also want to consult your state's laws regarding child support as they can vary.

What if I start feeling better and am able to work full time before my application is even approved?

Hi Sabrina,
If you are determined to have been eligible for benefits, you may be able to receive back pay for the time you were eligible but did not receive benefits.

Yes, I was in a car wreck in 2005 a drunk driver killed my father and gave me a hip replacement and a hernia that is in a spot that can't be fixed, I got disability after the surgery and went back to work, for awhile and hurt everyday and dealt with pain, anyways just dealt with pain and slept most of the time when I got home(no family time) I also have sleep apnea which made my heart go into afib? And anyways after a while my family and I moved for personal reason and the job I had was Brutal on me and the job I have now is brutal on my feet 8-10 hrs a day....I can't do it anymore and need to figure out what to do...I need help...I can't have a normal family life and I have found out that I have anxiety or something do to the wreck, my wife of 13 years bless her, takes me to work and picks me up, I can't drive anymore with out thinking about getting in a wreck and dieing, I can drive when wife is with me, but being alone is terrible....I am currently working and dealing with intense pain everyday I come home...and I don't want another hip replacement and I want to be able to drive alone, but to be honest I don't see it happening, is there a way to talk to someone about getting disability for a better life and to help me and my family?

How do you know if your disability was approved under the medical vocational disability rather than the standard blue book?

Hi Peggy,
You may be able to find out by contacting the SSA regarding this, you can do so by calling them at 1-800-772-1213.

I currently get Social Security Benefit. Received first payment December after the five month wait. I am planning to go back to work full time beginning January 29th. My question is, will I still receive the February payment?

Hi Dex,

Most likely, but double check with the SSA first and let them know you are planning on going back to work.

hi i have been on ssdi for 20 years i returned to work part time i am a widow and i have copd and other phycological conditions i wanna know will i loose my benefit i only work 20hours a week if that will they cut me off?

Hi there,
If you are on SSDI and earn less than $850 a month, your benefits may not change.

I currently receive SSI Disability Benefits about $1800 Montly sine 2015. I've been offered an opportunity to attempt to go back to work working 30 hours@$35 hourly. My concern is IF I can't handle job say after 3-6 Months will I be able to go back to receiving Benefits? I DON'T want to do anything to jeopardize my coverage. I understand if I make more than what I receive I won't continue to receive benefit I'm just concerned that I won't be able to resume benefits if job doesn't wok out?

I currently receive SSDI and I am looking to go back to work for a second time. Initially I used up my trial work period to obtain a full time job. I then worked full time for 4 years when I needed to go back on receiving SSDI. I was granted to continue receiving benefits and now after several years have passed I want to go back to work. Would I be eligible for another trial work period.
Thank you!

Hi Jose,

It's possible, but you should speak with an SSA representative first just to be sure.

I have been on SSDI for a little over a year but disabled for the last 3. I want to try to go back to work but the nature of my disability is very restrictive and random so I am not sure that I will be able to do it. If I am understanding correctly, while on SSDI ANY income must be reported to SSA but as long as it is below the SGA for 2018...I think it's around $1080/month...there would be no change to my benefits or my "trial work period". Is this correct? I want to go back to work and like many others have come to count on the benefits as part of my finances to pay bills, to lose them to a part time job would be the end for my bank account.

Hi Jason,

The SSA has a monthly limit of $850 before entering the Trial Work period. If you make over $850 you enter the Trial Work Period, which lasts for 9 months. If you make over the SGA amount of $1180 during that time the SSA may reexamine your benefits to see if you still qualify for benefits as you are showing you can make the SGA.

During the trial work period, if you make more than $1,800/mo, does that mean they just don’t pay you for that month? Or do they pay you and then you have to pay it back when they review and see you are earning more than the SGA?

Hi Maureen,

You still receive your benefits while doing the trial work period. But, once the Trial Work Period ends your case may be reopened and if they believe you are now able to work and earn enough to support yourself then your benefits could be reduced or stopped.

I have ESRD and I'm on dialysis. I have received SSDI since 2014. Am I able to go back to the job I was working before receiving SSDI?

Pages