Q & A

Ask Rusty – Can Someone Work While Collecting Social Security Disability?

Dear Rusty: If a person is collecting Social Security disability benefits, can they, at any point, work at all? If they can, what is the maximum they can earn and still keep the disability benefit? I am asking because my husband is still young, but his injuries will not allow him to go back to the job he had prior to his injuries and surgeries. He does not just want to sit at home doing nothing!  Signed: Concerned Wife

Dear Concerned: Actually, the Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages those collecting SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) benefits to attempt to go back to work and they provide considerable leeway for them to do so. The monthly earnings limit for those collecting SSDI benefits in 2024 is $1,550 and as long as your husband earns less than the limit while working, his SSDI benefits will not be in jeopardy. Your husband should contact Social Security’s Ticket to Work program directly to protect his disability status and discuss returning to work while collecting SSDI benefits.

The Ticket to Work program assists those now receiving SSDI benefits who wish to test their ability to return to work without putting their SSDI benefits at risk. The program provides considerable assistance, including new career training opportunities and connection to potential employers, and it is voluntary and costs nothing. Here is a link to Social Security’s information on the Ticket to Work program: https://choosework.ssa.gov/

It’s not mandatory for your husband to enroll in the Ticket to Work program but, in addition to other available assistance, he can request a Trial Work Period (TWP) which would allow for 9 months, over a rolling five year period, during which he can earn any amount (even over the normal monthly limit mentioned above) without risking his SSDI benefits. Within the Trial Work Period, only those months he earns over the normal monthly SSDI limit would count as a Trial Work Month. So, for example, your husband could work part time regularly earning under the normal monthly limit and if, in some months (up to nine), he earned more it wouldn’t affect his SSDI benefits. 

So, your younger disabled husband can, indeed, work while on Social Security disability, for as long as he wishes while earning under the monthly SSDI limit (the SSDI earnings limit changes yearly). He may also wish to enroll in Social Security’s Ticket to Work program for assistance with developing a new career. Plus, he can take advantage of using trial work months in the event his work earnings will, at times, exceed the monthly SSDI limit. If your husband earns over the SSDI limit for more than the 9 trial work months and his benefits are consequently stopped, he can – within the 5-year Trial Work Period – have his benefits reinstated (without again going through the full application process) if his disability, once more, renders him unable to work full time. 

For starters, I suggest your husband contact Social Security’s Ticket to Work program directly at 1.833-889-0108 to discuss returning to work part-time. Social Security will guide him through the entire process. 

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at [email protected].

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