Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Working while applying for disability or when on disability can help and hurt your claim for benefits. Working part time is allowed and may help your claim by showing your willingness to work, what limits you experience due to your medical conditions, and may also provide a source for important employer letters. But if you earn more than SGA ($1,310.00) for three months in a row you may dismiss your claim or end your period of disability. Working at SGA levels for less than three months is considered an unsuccessful work attempt when your medical conditions cause you to work less. Also, when on disability earning over a certain amount will trigger a trial work period. If you earn $940 in nine months out of five years you will terminate your benefits. Working on SSI will reduce your benefits by one-half per dollar earned after the first $65 of earnings is excluded.
Substantial Gainful Activity
Earning more than a certain amount each month will disqualify you from disability benefits. That amount is called "Substantial Gainful Activity" or SGA. The amount of SGA changes each year. In 2021 the amount you can earn before it is deemed SGA is $1,310.00 for non-blind individuals (and $2,190.00 for blind individuals). The SGA amounts for each year can be found here.
Unsuccessful Work Attempt
If you are able to work at SGA levels for two months but less than three months because of your medical condition that work will be considered an "Unsuccessful Work Attempt" or UWA and not disqualify you from receiving benefits.
Trial Work Period
If you earn less than SGA after you are disabled you may still earn too much to remain on disability. In 2021, earning $940.00 in a month triggers a "Trial Work Period." If you earn that amount for nine months in a sixty-month (5 year) period, then you will be disqualified for disability. The amount you can earn each year before triggering a trial work period can be found here.
Working While on SSI.
Social Security excludes the first $65 in earnings and one-half of all earnings over $65 in a month. Social Security also excludes the first $20 of income (earned or unearned). So if you earn $1,000 that would leave $915. Then Social Security would deduct one half of the remaining earnings from your benefits.