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How many hours can I work and still receive Social Security Disability (SSDI)?

Disabled Americans can receive monthly payments from the SSA to top up their household income, provided their earnings do not exceed a certain threshold.

The difference between Social Security disabilities programs
Fred ProuserREUTERS

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides financial assistance for people with disabilities, who are unable to work or to earn a sufficient amount. The program pays benefits to the claimant and in some cases family members, provided they are ‘insured’.

The ‘insured’ status is calculated based on the individual’s earnings history, requiring that people have contributed a certain amount to the Social Security Administration (SSA) during the course of their life.

To be eligible for the support recipients may not have earnings over a certain level, however that threshold is a monthly rate of pay, not a number of hours. In 2022 that limit is $1,350 per month, or $2,260 for blind individuals. This figure is known as the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit.

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What is an SGA?

Disability benefits from the SSA are designed to provide support for individuals and their families who would otherwise be unable to support themselves. Anyone with an income that is deemed to be sufficient without the support, will not be able to receive it.

Each year the SGA figure is updated to reflect the economic situation, with different entitlements for blind and non-blind recipients, due to the extra expenses the former group is likely to face.

When first introduced in 1975 the figure was $200, both for blind and non-blind recipients. The differentiation came in three years later in 1978, when blind disabled people were given an SGA of $334, as opposed to $260.

Can I do a trial work period without it affecting my SSDI entitlement?

Although SSDI has no maximum length, like some unemployment benefits programs, it is hoped that the recipient could be well enough to return to the workplace in the future.

If someone want to attempt a return to the workplace, the SSA will allow a trial work period in which the beneficiary can earn an income from their job while still receiving the SSDI benefits.

The SSA explains: “During a trial work period, a beneficiary receiving Social Security disability benefits on the basis of his or her own earnings history may test his or her ability to work and still be considered disabled.”