Whenever you work and receive SSDI benefits, you must report your income to SSA. Remember to keep proof of reporting. For example, if you drop off a copy of your pay stubs to your local SSA office, you should also get a date stamp on your copy.
SSA uses a process to determine whether a worker is still disabled, including a trial work period and an extended period of eligibility.
Trial work period
Under SSDI rules, you can have a trial work period. This means you can test yourself to see if you can work without having to worry that you will lose your disability benefits right away. Your benefits will not be affected by how much you earn during the trial work period. In 2017, a trial work month includes any month in which you each more than $840. If you are self-employed, a trial work month includes any month in which you worked more than 80 hours total. The trial work period can be no longer than nine months in any 60 month period and the nine months do not need to be consecutive.
Extended period of eligibility
Once you have completed nine trial work months in any 60-month period, you enter an extended period of eligibility for the next 36 months. During that time, you can still receive your SSDI benefits for any month in which your earnings are less than $1,170. But, if your monthly earnings exceed $1,170, you will not receive your SSDI benefits during that month.
Working after the extended period of eligibility
If you have average monthly earnings over $1,170 after the extended period of eligibility ends, then SSA will likely decide that you are no longer disabled and terminate your benefits. However, if your SSDI stops for this reason and the same disability later keeps you from working during the next 5 years, you can ask for expedited reinstatement of your benefits. That means you do not have to file a new application and can receive temporary benefits for six months while SSA determines if you are eligible for SSDI again.
If you receive SSDI, it is wise to contact your local Social Security office before you start working if you have any questions about how it will affect your benefits.
Updated: December 2016