Yes, you can work while receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, but only within strict limits. Payments will stop if you are engaged in what Social Security calls “substantial gainful activity.” SGA, as it’s known, is defined in 2023 as earning more than $1,470 a month (or $2,460 if you are blind).
If your income exceeds those caps, you cannot collect disability benefits, unless you are taking part in one of Social Security’s "work incentives" — programs and trial periods aimed at helping SSDI recipients transition back into the workforce without sacrificing their benefits. Some work incentives are also available to recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is administered by Social Security and also provides benefits to people with disabilities.
The major such program is Ticket to Work, which offers people on SSDI and SSI job training, work experiences and other services to help them become self-supporting. As do other work incentives, Ticket to Work temporarily waives the SGA earnings limits, so you continue collecting your disability benefits while you engage in trial work with employers who have signed up to participate. If you get a job through the program, you go off disability benefits. The payments will resume if you have to stop working because your medical condition worsens.
SSDI beneficiaries are also allowed a trial period of up to nine months to test their ability to work. The trial months can be spread out over five years, and during these months you can get your full benefit regardless of your earnings. You’ll find more information on these and other work incentives in the Social Security publication "Working While Disabled — How We Can Help."
Keep in mind
- The SGA limits are adjusted annually based on national changes in average wages.
- Some work incentives are specific either to SSDI or SSI, while others, like Ticket to Work, are available to both types of beneficiary.