How much you can earn a month while on Social Security benefits varies based on the type of benefits you receive, whether or not you have reached retirement age, and if you are married or have other dependents.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), most Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries can earn up to $1,310 per month through employment without affecting their disability benefits as of 2021. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries, the SSA does not count the first $65 of earned income plus one-half of any amount over $65.
Limits on what You Can Earn a Month While on Social Security Benefits are Different for Everyone
The SSA’s rules on how much Social Security disability beneficiaries can earn through work while receiving SSI and SSDI benefits are complex because they depend not only on the circumstances of the individual but also on their family life.
If you feel that your benefits have been unfairly reduced or revoked by the SSA, a lawyer from our firm can help you determine if you qualify for more benefits and guide you through the process of reinstating them.
A Single Beneficiary
Unmarried SSDI beneficiaries who have not reached retirement age can make up to $1,310 a month through employment without losing their benefits unless they are blind, in which case they can earn up to $2,190 a month while on SSDI.
The effects of income on SSI payments are often more complicated because the SSA considers four different types of income when calculating a person’s eligibility and award total:
- Earned income, such as wages
- Unearned income, such as Social Security benefits, state disability payments, unemployment, and gifts from family and friends
- In-kind income, or food or shelter that you receive for free or at a reduced rate
- Deemed income, such as the income your parents receive if you live with them
The SSA considers certain incomes, such as the first $65 of work earnings and the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits the individual receives, as uncountable, which means that they do not affect the amount of SSI you will receive. However, other income, such as half of what you earn at work over $65 per month, can decrease the SSI benefits you receive.
The SSA takes your total income minus the income that they do not count against your benefits to come up with your countable income. They then subtract your countable income from the federal benefit rate to come up with the total amount you can receive per month. Blind individuals are not subject to income limitations on SSI.
A Beneficiary with a Spouse and/or Children
SSDI functions as a trust fund, or a type of insurance for people who have paid into the program through employment taxes over the years. While the children and spouses of SSDI beneficiaries can often receive benefits as dependents of the beneficiary, the income of dependents does not affect the SSDI total that the family can receive. Only the beneficiary is subject to income limitations, which were $1,310 per month ($2,190 for blind recipients) as of 2021.
Married couples who both qualify for SSI can receive up to $1,191 per month, so their countable income must not exceed this amount. If only one person qualifies for SSI, the income of the spouse counts as deemed income and may either reduce the other individual’s award amount or make them ineligible for SSI benefits.
A Beneficiary who is Over Retirement Age
Once a beneficiary of either SSI or SSDI reaches retirement age, their benefits automatically transition to Social Security retirement. At this point, income does not affect the amount that the beneficiary will receive in either program.
For a free legal consultation, call 412-661-1400
The Ticket to Work Program May Help You Keep Your Benefits While You Transition Back to Work
The SSA offers Social Security disability recipients who wish to return to work the option to participate in the agency’s Ticket to Work program. This program allows beneficiaries to start working on a trial basis of up to nine months within a 60-month period without losing cash benefits or Medicare/Medicaid.
After this point, beneficiaries still have up to 36 months of extended eligibility, during which time they can receive SSI or SSDI benefits during months that they do not meet Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) income thresholds without having to go through the reinstatement process.
Your Social Security Benefits May Be Taxable
Depending on your total income, you may have to pay taxes on your benefits. This applies if you:
- File federal income taxes as “individual” and your income exceeds $25,000 per year
- File joint federal income taxes and your income, combined with that of your spouse, exceeds $32,000.
- Are married but filing separately (in most cases)
Approximately one-third of all Social Security disability recipients pay taxes on their benefits.
A Lawyer Can Help You with Your Social Security Disability Claim
How much you can earn a month while on Social Security benefits can be confusing to figure out on your own, and the process for reinstatement can be as well.
If your payments were reduced or stopped because of your income and you want to reinstate them, the Pittsburgh lawyers at Berger and Green can help you determine your options and move forward with pursuing benefits. Contact us today at (412) 661-1400 for a free consultation with our legal team.