How Much Can I Earn While on Social Security Disability in 2021?
If you are disabled, 2021 brings with it an increase in the amount of money you may earn while also receiving payments through the Social Security disability insurance program (SSDI). Allowable earnings increased to $1,310 for someone with a disability other than being blind. A person who is blind may earn up to $2,110.
Of course, as you will learn, answers to questions related to disability benefits usually require an explanation, and “How much can I earn while on Social Security disability?” is no exception. The amount of earnings you may have depends upon which of the two SSD programs you receive benefits through because the rules differ for each of them.
The Maximum Amount You May Earn Each Month While Receiving SSI
The Social Security Administration oversees two programs paying benefits to individuals who are disabled and unable to work due to a medical condition: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security disability insurance. SSI is a needs-based program paying benefits to blind or otherwise disabled adults and children who meet strict income and financial resource limitations.
To receive monthly payments through SSI, your income cannot exceed $794 in 2021. The income limit if you have a spouse is $1,191. In addition to income from a job, the SSA also counts as monthly income other Social Security benefits, state unemployment benefits, and pensions that you receive.
A formula used by Social Security allows you the first $65 of earned income, which would be money you receive from working, without a reduction in your SSI payment. Half of whatever you earn each month over the first $65 reduces the payment you receive from SSI. The effect, as explained by the SSA, is a $1 reduction in SSI for every $2 earned more than the first $65.
Some Work Expenses May Be Excluded from Being Considered Income
SSI recognizes a person with a disability may require work-related accommodations, their cost may be used to reduce income that counts against your SSI benefits. For example, if you must have modifications made to your car to get to and from work, the cost may be deducted from your earned income.
Under its Plan to Achieve Self-Support or PASS initiative, the SSA lets you create a plan to achieve your employment goal. PASS recognizes that the purpose of the SSI payments you receive each month is to pay for food, housing, and other ordinary living expenses and not for achieving your work goals, including:
- Job training and education.
- Childcare to allow you to go to work.
- Transportation expenses.
Money spent on achieving your goal of working does not count as income that would affect your SSI payments. Unlike the exclusion allowed for income earned from working, money for PASS may come from other sources of income. It may also come from financial resources, which would reduce their value that may otherwise affect your SSI benefits.
The Maximum Earnings Allowed While Receiving SSDI
Different rules about how much you can earn apply when you receive payments through the SSDI program. If you earn more than $1,310 a month in 2021, it could affect your eligibility for SSDI. The earnings maximum is $2,190 a month if you are blind. Earning more than those amounts are considered by SSA as a substantial gainful activity. The ability to engage in SGA means that you no longer meet the definition of disabled required for SSDI.
Fortunately, SSA has a program that gives you a trial work period to determine if you can work. If you notify SSA that you wish to attempt a return to work, it will treat any month that you earn over $940 as part of a nine-month trial period. Earnings from engaging in self-employment also count during a trial work period.
Earnings received during the initial nine months of a trial work period do not reduce the benefits you receive through SSDI. Your nine months do not have to be consecutive, but they must be completed within 60 months.
At the end of the nine-month trial period, you may continue to work while collecting SSDI for an additional 36 months. The SGA rules apply after the nine-month trial, so earning $1,310 a month, or $2,190 if you are blind, will affect your eligibility for SSDI.
If your earnings result in SSDI payments stopping because you engaged in SGA, there is an expedited process for having them restored. You must request reinstatement of benefits within five years from when they stopped without having to file a new application.
Learn More About Earnings While on SSDI From a Disability Lawyer
Whether applying for Social Security Disability benefits for the first time or already receiving them, you may be wondering, “How much can I earn while on SSDI?” Instead of guessing and possibly jeopardizing your benefits, get sound advice you can trust from a disability lawyer.