If I’m Receiving SSDI, Can I Still Work Part-Time?

Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC  Oct. 4, 2023

Disability Insurance Files and FoldersThe Social Security Administration (SSA) administers Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a program providing financial support to individuals who have contributed through taxes or self-employment taxes. SSDI applicants must meet stringent criteria related to their mental or physical condition, which must render them unable to perform their most recent or similar work for a minimum of 12 months, or until death.

To qualify for SSDI benefits, recipients must also ensure their income, referred to as "substantial gainful activity" (SGA), does not exceed certain thresholds. As of 2023, the monthly SGA limit is $1,470, or $2,460 for individuals with visual impairment. If a person's condition poses limitations preventing them from engaging in any employment, qualifying for SGA is typically not problematic. However, if their condition permits or they decide to reenter the workforce on a part-time basis, a question arises: can they still receive SSDI benefits?

As long as the individual's SGA remains at $1,470 (or $2,460) or below per month, their SSDI benefits should remain unaffected, unless the SSA determines that their disability no longer prevents them from working. In such cases, the SSA might question, "If this person can work part-time, why can't they work full-time?" 

If you do wish to return to work, the SSA also offers programs and incentives to help you return to work and continue receiving benefits, at least for several months. 

If you need assistance with your SSDI application or require help with your existing application, and you are in or around Raleigh, North Carolina, feel free to reach out to me at the Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC. I am a former Social Security Disability Judge, so I understand the system and how things get done. I stand ready to address all your questions and concerns about SSDI, including working part-time. I also proudly serve clients in Roanoke Rapids, Fayetteville, and Greensboro. 

Working Part-Time and Receiving SSDI Benefits 

It's not unusual for an SSDI claimant to be rejected on their first try. In fact, more than half of initial applications are turned down. Applicants then must request a reconsideration, and if the answer still comes back no, then they can request a hearing before a Social Security Disability Judge. After the hearing, you can take the issue to the Appeals Council.

SSDI is reserved for those whom the SSA considers “insured.” This means that they have paid Social Security taxes long enough and recently enough. If your SSDI application is approved, you will be eligible for monthly benefits, in other words, a cash payment. There is a five-month waiting period for the benefits to start, but the waiting period is dated from the day you became disabled, not necessarily from the date of your application.

If your condition is such that you cannot perform your full-time duties, but you can do other work on a part-time basis, then you can continue your SSDI benefits so long as your monthly wages don’t top $1,470 (in 2023) or $2,460 if you’re blind. You could also decide to pursue part-time work after your condition improves, but the same SGA limit still applies.

You are required, however, to report your earnings even if they fall below the SGA limit. If you're considering returning to work, the SSA offers programs and incentives to assist you in both resuming work and continuing to receive benefits, particularly for several months.

Note that if you earn more than $1,050 in any month, you may fall into what’s called the “Trial Work Period,” which is described in the next section. 

SSA Offers Incentives to Work 

If you do decide to return to work, the SSA offers a program called “Ticket to Work,” which provides free vocational rehabilitation, training, job referrals, and more. The program offers qualified people with disabilities access to meaningful employment with the assistance of authorized employment service providers. 

If you do return to work, whether through the Ticket to Work program or on your own, there is another incentive to help you make the transition. This is called the “Trial Work Period.” You can work for nine months under this incentive and continue to receive SSDI benefits no matter if your earnings exceed the SGA limit. You still have to be disabled to receive the benefits, however.

In 2023, a trial work period is any month your total earnings are over $1,050. If you’re self-employed, you will have a trial work month when you earn more than $1,050 (after business expenses) or work more than 80 hours in your own business.

The nine months do not have to be consecutive but can accumulate over a 60-month period. After your total work period is over, you have another 36 months in which you can receive SSDI benefits, but your income cannot exceed the SGA limits if you wish to continue receiving your benefits. 

If Your Benefits Stop: Expedited Reinstatement 

If your earnings exceed the limit and lead to the discontinuation of your SSDI benefits, don't worry. You still have a five-year window to apply for an expedited reinstatement if your inability to work persists due to your medical condition. This provision ensures that you won't face undue hardship and can receive the necessary support throughout your recovery journey. 

Reach Out to the Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC 

If you’re looking to apply for SSDI or need help in getting your original application approved so you can receive benefits, contact me at the Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC. As a former Social Security Disability Judge, I can help you navigate the system and deal with any challenges you may face in the application process. I can also address any questions and concerns you have about SSDI, including those about working part-time.

My office is in Raleigh, but I also proudly serve clients in the neighboring communities of Roanoke Rapids, Fayetteville, and Greensboro.