Having a medical condition that is severe enough to prevent you from carrying out a substantial amount of work is one of the main requirements for getting approved for disability benefits. A substantial amount of work, which is known as substantial gainful activity (SGA) is defined by the Social Security Administration (SGA) as any work that pays you $1310 per month or more. Therefore, anybody who is currently earning this amount will be denied social security disability benefits on application, or if you are earning this amount of money while in receipt of disability benefits, they will be stopped. If you are working while in receipt of SSI benefits, the SGA will reduce your benefits by subtracting your income from your payment.
How Working Affects Your SSI Payments
In 2021, the SSA will pay up to $794 in disability benefits, which is known as the federal benefit rate (FBR). The monthly benefit amount that you receive will be the difference between this figure and your countable income, which is calculated by counting any wages that you are paid from your job, the value of any free shelter or food that you receive, and any support money that you receive from friends or family. It will also take into account any payments that you receive from other sources like unemployment or veteran’s benefits.
What is Earned Income?
Earned income refers to any money that you are paid in return for working. If you earn an income, the first sixty-five dollars will be excluded when calculating your benefits amount, then half of the remaining amount of wages that you earn over $65. This is designed to reduce your countable income, minimizing the effects of your work on your benefits amount. If you are working while in receipt of disability benefits and believe that you have not earned enough to warrant the amount that has been deducted from your benefits, a good disability lawyer can help you with this situation.
Work Incentives for Disability Benefit Recipients
Besides excluding part of the income that you do earn from working, there are several programs that are offered by the SSA in order to encourage disability benefit recipients to get back to work, allowing you to continue receiving some benefits if you want to get back into the workplace and helping you make the transition more easily. There are various programs available to consider, which include:
The Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program means that some of your income or other resources that you earn will be excluded in order to pay for tuition fees, books, or other work or education-related items to help you get back into a career that you enjoy and is suitable for you.
Impairment-Related Work Expenses
Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs) refer to the expenses that you will pay for any disability-related services or products that you might require in order to successfully do your job. Any work-related expenses that you have as a result of your disability might be excluded when working out your countable income. This could include the cost of specialized transportation that you need to get to work, any specialized equipment that you require to do your job, and more. Talk it over with an SSA representative to determine if you have any expenses that might be deductible. Bear in mind that any routine medical care you require as a result of your disability or health condition is not classed as an IRWE.
Work Expenses for Blind People
If you are blind or partially blind, the SSA will exclude all expenses related to your job when determining your benefits payment. This will also include any expenses that you pay which are not directly related to being blind. This can include any specialized assistance that you receive, transportation to and from work, and even your taxes.
If your employer has agreed to pay you more than the reasonable value of the work that you carry out for them as a result of your disability or health condition, the SSA will count this overpayment as a subsidy, which will not be included when determining your countable income to work out benefit payments.
How it Works for Students
If you are a student aged 22 or under, the SSA may exclude up to $1,900 of your wages each month when determining your countable income. This applies to gross wages, which means the amount that you are paid before anything such as taxes and other expenses are deducted from your ages. This exclusion is limited to $7,770 per calendar year for 2021. To take advantage of this incentive, you must be enrolled in school, college or university that you attend on a regular basis. Between the seventh and twelfth grades, you will need to be attending school for at least twelve hours per week. College and university students will need to be attending classes for at least eight hours per week, while those enrolling in a work training program need to attend for between twelve and fifteen hours per week at least depending on the type of training. Students who study online due to being unable to go to classes because of their disability might still be eligible for this incentive.
Reinstatement of Benefits
If your wages put your income above the limits, your Social Security disability payments will be stopped. However, your benefits can easily be restarted in some situations if you become unable to work again due to your medical condition or disability. Your benefits may be able to be restarted without having to begin the application process a second time if you cannot work at the SGA level due to the disability and the current disability is the same or related to the existing condition. You will need to apply for expedited reinstatement within five years of your benefits being terminated.
A disability can make it difficult to work, but if you want to work as much as you can with your condition, it’s important to understand the rules around claiming disability benefits and working.