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Can You Work While On Disability: What You Need To Know

If you are wondering if you can you work while on disability benefits, the answer is yes. However, there are certain things that you need to take into consideration. Do you want to know more about them? Well, guess what!? You are in the right place! Because today, that is exactly what we are going to talk about!


Imagine this, you have been working all your life. Your day to day life is all about work and family. It’s as if these two are the only thing that matters in the world. You work your ass off every single day not just to earn money, but because you are very passionate about your job.


And then suddenly, one day, without noticing it, something happened that will change your life forever. You met an accident and made you disable.


That totally is heart-breaking, right? It’s as if your whole world was shattered. You started questioning why of all people this has to happen. You could not help but cry out your frustrations, worries, and fears. You started asking what’s is more to life? Is it even worth living!?


For those who are in this situation or know someone who is going through this kind of situation, here’s a fact, please know that yes, there is more to life! That life does not end just because you became disable or something was taken away from you. In fact, the very reason that you are still breathing means there are still a lot of things that you need to do.


If you worry about your future, stop. Because first, you get to receive Social Security disability benefits that will help you surpass your day to day life, your daily needs. Second, and the most important of all, you can still work even while on disability. Of course! You still can! So, see that? It’s not the end of the world yet. Definitely, not!


We are here to help. In fact, we are specifically dedicating this to you and those whose loved ones are going through this and are asking if he or she can you work while on disability. Today, we are going to look into the possibilities, at the same time explaining how everything must be done.


So, let’s start?


What is Supplemental Security Income or SSI?


For those who are not familiar with Supplemental Security Income or SSI, it is defined as something that is “designed to provide people with disability who have very limited income and resources.”


A person who is qualified to receive SSI gets to have a monthly payment amounting up to %733 to an individual or up to $1,100 to a couple. Take note, however, that SSI is given in addition to supplements paid to residents of most states.


When it comes to who is eligible to receive SSI, there are different factors that are taken into consideration. But the four major ones are the person’s disability (of course), his or her resources, income, as well as the person’s citizenship.


What are the requirements to qualify for SSI?


When we talk about disability, this can be a lot. It does cover a lot of possible disabilities. However, at the end of the day, it is the governing body or the government who is going to decide what particular matters are considered a disability.


Anyway, for your information, below are three ways to meet the disability requirements and receive your disability benefits:


– If the person is 65 years or older. Yes, once you reach 65 years of age, you automatically qualify for SSI.

– If the person is blind. According to the Social Security Administration, “blindness” is defined as “having visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye with the use of a corrected lens, or a visual field of no greater than 20 degrees”.

– If the person is disabled. This depends on adults and young people. For adults, disability means the person has “a medically determinable mental or physical impairment that makes you unable to do any substantial gainful activity and can be expected to result in death or has lasted or will last for more than 12 months”. Meanwhile, for those who are 18 years old and below, disability is defined as “marked and severe functional limitations”.


Additional Citizenship Requirements


Apart from the requirements we earlier mentioned, SSI recipients must, of course, be holding a U.S. citizenship or a qualified alien according to the definition of the Department of Homeland Security.


Should you meet the qualified alien criteria, you also have to make sure that you meet at least one of the five conditions that let qualified aliens to receive or collect SSI. The five conditions include:


  1. Receiving SSI and is legally residing in the U.S. on Aug. 22, 1996
  2. Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence (LAPR) with 40 qualifying quarters of earnings
  3. Currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, or are an honorably discharged veteran
  4. Residing legally in the U.S. on Aug. 22, 1996, and is blind or disabled
  5. If you belong to certain categories like a refugee admitted to the U.S., you may get to receive SSI for a maximum of seven years since the date qualified alien status was granted


What does “limited resources” mean?


As mentioned a while ago, one of the major factors that the SSA takes into consideration to see if a person qualifies for SSI is when he or she has very limited resources. So, to help you understand this further, “limited resources” basically means, $2,000 for individuals, while $3,000 for couples.


For SSI qualification purposes, the following are what considered as “resources” (but it, however, may not necessarily be limited to these):


  • Cash
  • Bank accounts and investments
  • Personal property
  • Land
  • Vehicles
  • Life insurance
  • Any other things that could be converted into cash


Please do note though that the home and the land where you currently reside, life insurance with a face value that is less than $1,500, a burial plot that you own, up to $1,500 in burial funds, and your car are not included in the computation.


How to apply for SSI?


Now, anyone can apply to receive SSI. In fact, you can fill out the application online via


Now, once you are done with the online application, you will have to visit the Social Security office to complete the whole application process. Before heading there, make sure you have the following documents:


  • Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Information about your living situation (mortgage or lease)
  • Payroll slips, bank statements, insurance policies, and burial fund records
  • Contact information for doctors and clinics you’ve visited
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Your checkbook, or other documents where your bank account numbers are list


So, now that we already tackled about what SSI is all about, the requirements, as well as the process of application, let us proceed to what we are primarily here for – if you can work while on disability.


We mentioned earlier that the answer to that is yes, but of course, we want you to fully understand some matters so as not to ensure that you will not disobey the law or something of that sort.


Can you work while on disability?


Now, to be perfectly clear, the answer to this question is yes. However, you have to be aware that working while on disability status and receiving benefits from the SSA may actually affect your disability benefits.


Here’s how it goes. Your income or how much you earn at work will affect a lot your disability benefits. To be particular, if you receive an income from work amounting $65 per month, that will have no effect of your eligibility for SSI benefits, but once you get a pay higher than $65, that is when your benefits will be affected. Your benefits will be reduced by half of the amount you earn.


For better understanding, allow us to give you an example. Let us say you are earning $500 monthly from a part-time job. The rule says your SSI benefit can be reduced by half of your total monthly earning if it is above $65. And since $500 is way above $65, it basically means there will be a total of $217.50 monthly reduction from your disability benefits.


This rule applies regardless if the income is from work or other sources, but only the first $20 per month in the income is exempted. This includes the amount of money you get from Social Security, unemployment, Veterans Affairs, workers’ compensation, as well as money was given to you by family, relatives, and friends.


Furthermore, exceeding the Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA income limit while working on disability may put your benefits at risk.


What is Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA?


Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA is basically any work that makes you earn a certain amount of money every month. SGA is what SSA uses to see whether or not you are indeed disabled. For this year, the SSA is $1,220 per month for non-blind applicants and $2,040 per month for blind applicants.


Here’s a very important note that you should keep in mind. If you earn more than the SGA income limit when you apply for disability benefits, it is more likely that your application will get denied. However, if you are able to prove that your earnings are not enough, even if your earnings are over the limit, you may be able to proceed in the next step of the SSA’s evaluation process. The next in the process will determine your medical eligibility.


Now, if in case you resign from your job before you apply for disability benefits, you have to prove to SSA that the reason of your resignation is because your disability hinders you to work or that its condition has worsened, and not because you are afraid of exceeding the SGA income limit.


If in case you find all these hard to understand, you can always check with SSA or you can hire a disability lawyer or advocate. Usually, a disability lawyer or advocate helps those people with disabilities in gathering necessary evidences, as well as in filling out the application, and they also help ensure that you get to maximize your chance of getting the disability benefits. They will also help make sure you understand everything about disability benefits and the pros and cons should you wish to still work while on disability.


What are the employment guidelines when working while on disability?


Now that you already know that you can work while on disability, it is also important that you know the employment guidelines. This will help you check your options and understand better the pros and cons.


Here’s the thing, disability employment lets any individual who is receiving the SS disability benefits to receive additional income, at the same time, maintaining their current level of benefits. For your information, people with disability have three options for work, and these are:


  • Work for an approved employer via the SSA Ticket to Work or Ticket to Work at Home program
  • Find a job on your own
  • Be self-employed


How much you are allowed to earn while on disability benefits will depend on whether they work for a company or a business, or if they work for themselves, as well as in which particular state they reside.


To help you better understand the guidelines, allow us to fully explain each item to you.


Working for an Employer

(Either through SSA Ticket to Work or Ticket to Work at Home Programs or Finding a Job on Your Own)


Let’s admit it, not because you are disabled it means you no longer can work for yourself or your family. While it can hinder you to do some tasks, there are other works that you can do and make money out of it. Also, let us not forget the fact that employment or work gives any disabled person a sense of pride. It helps make them feel good. While receiving disability benefits is something to be grateful for, working while on disability is something that helps build a person’s confidence.


Anyway, just so you know, the government acknowledges all these. That is why SSA have these Ticket to Work or Ticket to Work at Home programs. The programs acknowledge the fact that people with a disability do still have the capacity to earn a living.


There are many options for part-time work for people with disabilities that they can get into while receiving their SS disability income. The only thing that matters, as we mentioned earlier, is that their salary stays within the income guidelines set by their respective states.


While there are many people with disabilities who use the Ticket to Work or Ticket to Work at Home programs of SSA, disabled people may also opt to find their own employment – whatever they deem necessary. Now, if the person opts to look for his or her own employment, that is fine as long as he or she is fully aware of the income guidelines.


To know more about the income guidelines, you may go and check your local Social Security Administration office or you may also check online via the SSA website.


Working as Self-Employed


While there are a lot of disabled persons who choose to work for a business or a company, some people with disabilities would rather be self-employed. If you choose to be self-employed, you can definitely do so. You can opt to create your own job according to your personal preference, based on your needs. Those people who choose self-employment are usually after the flexibility it gives them, which is usually not the case when working for someone for a business or a company. Needless to say, it gives them the ability to work from home and spare themselves from the difficulty of getting from one place to another.


For those planning to go this path, please know that the SSA has a different set of rules for self-employment compared to working for a company or business. For your information, the guidelines for income are slightly lower for those working for a company or business compared to those who are self-employed.


Is it possible to work full-time?


The answer is yes. The SSA acknowledges the fact that there are individuals who find full-time work more suitable for them compared to part-time jobs. Now, if you choose to work full-time and are receiving SS disability income, you are required to report you earning to your local SSA office.


People with disabilities who earn more than the income guidelines for their state may be required to eventually to repay the benefits they received. We highly suggest that if you plan to work full-time, and you are still receiving the disability benefits to discuss it with your local SSA office. That way you get to know and understand your options. At the same time, they get to advise you about your state’s income guidelines. They too can answer if you have any employment-related questions.


Is it possible to give up your Social Security Disability Benefits?


The answer is another yes. Some disabled people may want to earn more than what the state can give, and that is not a problem at all. But you have to understand that once you opt to earn more, you may not have to reapply for benefits in the future if in case you become unable to work again because of a disability. So, before you even make any decision, you really have to make sure you thought about it well.


Final Thoughts


With all that’s been said, it is very evident that anyone can work while on disability but he or she has to understand that there are a corresponding pros and cons alongside it.


We hope we were able to help you in any way, and should you or anyone you know decide to push through with working while on disability benefits, we hope nothing but the best for you, him or her.