How Much Can I Earn While On Social Security Disability in 2021?

If you are disabled or blind, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits provided you also meet financial requirements established for the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance programs administered by the Social Security Administration. The amount that you may be eligible to receive each month in benefits depends on the program and on other income that you generate by working.

The Social Security Administration encourages people who qualify for SSI and SSDI to work to the extent their disability allows through trial work periods that allow someone to earn an income without it affecting their SSD benefits. A Social Security disability lawyer at Scully Disability Law provides advice and guidance about benefits and earnings along with options to return to work without jeopardizing your benefits. The following information offers insight into SSD benefits and ways to earn additional money while preserving your benefits.

How much can I earn from SSD?

To qualify for SSD benefits through either the Supplemental Security Income or the Social Security Disability Insurance program, you must be legally blind or have a disabling physical or mental impairment that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity for at least 12 continuous months. You also must meet financial criteria for each program to qualify for benefits.

If you qualify for SSI, you may receive as much as $794 a month as an individual and $1,191 a month as a couple. These monthly amounts are what you can earn from SSD in 2021 through the SSI program. Some states supplement the SSI benefit that you get from the federal government.

SSDI, which requires that you worked long enough to qualify for benefits at a job or through self-employment and paid into the Social Security system through payroll or self-employment taxes, pays a maximum monthly benefit of $3,148 in 2021. What you actually receive depends on your lifetime earnings on which you paid Social Security taxes.

Working and earning an income while receiving SSI

The definition for disabled as used by Social Security takes into consideration your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity, which means the ability to perform work-related activities. It uses monthly earnings to measure whether you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. For 2021, if you earn $1,310 or more in a month, you have the “capacity to work” and Social Security will deny your application for SSI or SSDI. The earnings maximum for individuals whose eligibility is because they are blind is $2,190 in 2021.

If you qualify for disability benefits through SSI, nothing prevents you from getting a job to generate additional income. However, be aware that earnings from work will reduce the amount that you receive each month from SSI.

The monthly SSI benefit for 2021 of $794 will be reduced by the income you earn from working, but you get to exclude the following from your earnings:

  • The first $65 of earned income.
  • The first $20 of unearned income, but if you do not have unearned income, you may apply the exclusion to earnings from working.
  • One-half of earned income after exclusion of the first $65.

As an example, assume that someone on SSI earns $1,485 a month from working and has no unearned income, so earned income becomes $1,400 after deduction of the $85 in exclusions. One-half the balance leaves $700 in countable income that reduces the monthly SSI benefit to $94.

If you are a student under 22 years of age speak with an SSD lawyer at Scully Disability Law about an earned income exclusion that applies only to students. If you qualify, it lets you exclude as much as $1,900 of gross wages earned in a month.

Trial work periods for SSDI

To give individuals receiving SSDI benefits the opportunity to see if their disability allows them to return to work the SSA offers a trial work period. The trial period lasts for up to nine months, but they do not have to be consecutive. You just have to use them within 60 months.

A trial month in 2021 is any month in which you earn at least $940. Regardless of how much money you earn during a trial month does not count against your SSDI benefits, so you get to keep your wages without a reduction in benefits.

At the end of the initial trial period, you may continue to work for another 36 months without the money that you earn affecting your monthly SSDI. However, if you earn more than the substantial gainful activity amount, which is $1,310 in 2021, the SSA will determine that you are no longer eligible for SSDI.

Learn more about earnings while on SSD

Before going to work while on SSD, learn how it may affect your benefits by first consulting with an experienced disability lawyer at Scully Disability Law. It is better to know the SSA rules and how they apply to you before moving ahead.