How Much Money Can You Make While Receiving Social Security Disability?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) sets a limit on how much you can make and still qualify for Social Security disability benefits. This limit, which depends on the type of benefit you receive, changes every year. There are also rules for how much money you can make while receiving Social Security disability (SSD), but these rules have contingencies.

If you have questions about returning to work while drawing Social Security disability, we are here to help. At the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC, our Social Security disability lawyers can help you understand your options when it comes to earning money while receiving SSD. Call us today at 866-628-8179 to schedule a time to meet with our team.

What are the income limits for SSD?

The income limits depend on what type of SSD benefit you receive. If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must earn less than the “substantial gainful activity” limit. While this threshold changes each year, it is $1,170 for 2017.

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your limit is much lower. While it also changes every year, the limit for 2017 is $735.

Can I get a job while drawing Social Security disability?

Yes, if your income falls below the limits above, or if you are involved in a work incentive program.

The SSA encourages those who draw SSD to try to return to work, and offers work incentive programs that give disabled people the opportunity to continue to draw benefits while beginning a new job. To participate in this incentive program, you simply need to notify Social Security you are returning to work. This is very important, because any unexplained increase in income may trigger a re-evaluation of your medical condition or a cancellation of your benefits.

With this program, you are allowed to earn as much as you can for nine months without jeopardizing your disability benefits. However, you must report all income to the SSA and follow all the work incentive program rules. Only months you earn more than $840 count toward this total. You also get to subtract your expenses (if self-employed) or the cost of adaptive equipment from your total earnings.

Once you earn more than $840 for nine months, you enter the extended eligibility period. This work incentive allows you to earn up to the limit set for “substantial gainful activity” (e.g., $1,170 in 2017).

The SSA will cut off your benefits if you go above the SSI income limit.

What income counts against me when it comes to Social Security disability?

The only type of income the SSA considers when determining SSDI qualifications is the income you work to earn. This includes money made from a traditional job or a self-employment opportunity.  

There are other ways you may gain household income that do not count, however. This includes the money made through investments such as stocks and bonds. Income from rental property or the sale of assets also do not count. Your spouse’s income is another way you can gain household income without affecting your SSDI benefits. If your spouse receives a raise or takes a second job, you do not need to report this increase in income and your benefits remain the same.

Even though the SSI income limit is very low, the SSA only considers certain incomes. For example, it does not consider the following:

  • The first $20 of income you receive in a month
  • The first $65 of earnings and one-half of earnings over $65 received in a month

For a more detailed list of what sources of income the SSA does not consider for SSI, click here. Your spouse’s income will affect your ability to receive SSI payments.

What if I make more than the $1,170 limit during the extended period of eligibility?

The extended period of eligibility lasts for 36 months. During this three-year period, you can continue to work and earn up to $1,170 in addition to your benefits. If you exceed this total, you will not receive benefits.

It is important to remember you can deduct your job- and disability-related expenses from your total earnings. This means you may be able to make significantly more than the $1,170 limit and still receive SSD.

Get help from a Social Security disability lawyer today.


The Social Security disability attorneys at Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC can help you better understand how returning to work or earning self-employment income could affect your ability to draw SSD benefits. Schedule your free consultation today: 866-628-8179.