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What If I'm Still Working?


While we use the words "not working" to describe the condition needed to receive SSDI, you can work and still receive SSDI if your average earnings are below a pre-set amount. If your income is below the limit, to Social Security you are not engaged in "Substantial Gainful Activity." If your income is above the limit, you may still qualify because Social Security permits certain deductions from income.

Substantial Gainful Activity: You can work as long as you earn less than $1.130 a month in 2016 (the amount varies from year to year. People who are blind can earn more.)

When looking at earnings:

  • It doesn't matter what other income you may have from savings, investments, income from profit-sharing plans that relate to past work, or even your spouse's income or assets. The key is income from your work.
  • Social security looks at your earnings before payroll deductions.

Deductions: If you are an employee (not a self-employed person) and earn over $1,130 a month in 2016:

  • "Impairment related work expenses" (IRWE) can be used to reduce your pay to "countable" earnings.
  • If you can show that your employer "subsidized" your pay, the amount of the subsidy is not counted.

For more information about these deductions, click here.

Social Security Review: If you are work, no matter how few hours, Social Security will look at your situation very closely to determine whether:

  • Your impairment really does limit your ability to work, or
  • Whether you're working for an artificially small number of hours or
  • Otherwise reducing your income in order to get SSDI, or
  • Possibly gaming the system entirely.

Once you start receiving SSDI, there are different rules for returning to work. See SSDI – Return To Work.

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