Can I Earn Income on Social Security Disability?

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The Social Security Administration, a federal government agency, runs a disability program that provides payments to individuals who have medical conditions that prevent them from working. Benefits can last for extended periods of time or permanently depending on the severity of the applicants' injuries or illnesses. However, not all disabilities last forever and the SSA allows individuals to receive disability benefits while they are making efforts to re-enter the workforce.


There are several requirements applicants have to meet to become eligible for benefits. Their illnesses and injuries must last longer than one year unless the medical condition is terminal. The disabilities must prevent applicants from doing jobs they were previously doing and affect their abilities to do other work. Individuals must have paid into Social Security while working and have accrued at least 40 credits (10 working years) to become eligible. Younger workers who haven’t earned the required credit amounts can still be eligible for benefits however.

Work Incentives

When the medical conditions of the disabled improves enough to go to work, the SSA provide work incentives in the form of continued benefits. Initially, recipients are given trial periods to test their abilities to work. Initially, individuals are given trial periods, which last 60 months. Within the five year windows, recipients are to complete 9 qualifying months (a qualifying month is either $720 in earnings or 80 or more hours in their businesses) to complete the trial periods. During the trial periods, recipients receive full disability benefits. Recipients are then given extended periods of eligibility which last 36 months. Full benefits are paid to individuals during the months in which their earnings doesn’t exceed $1,000, but it's $1,640 if the person is blind.


Earning incomes while receiving disability benefits can lead to taxation by the Internal Revenue Services. Benefit payments are taxed at normal income rates if individuals’ and married couple’s household earnings exceed income guidelines. Individuals who earn over $25,000 or married couples who pull $32,000 or more per year will have 50 percent of their disability benefits taxed. If individuals earn over $34,000 and married couples’ incomes exceed $44,000 annually, up to 85 percent of their benefits will be subject to taxation.


Individuals must report their information about their work activity to the disability program. They must report their work start and stop dates, duties, hours, pay changes and any work-related expenses due to their disabilities. If individuals lose their jobs during the trial periods, they will continue to receive benefits; however recipients will have to be reinstated and show proof of still being disabled if they are no longer employed during the extended periods of eligibility.