SSDI and Work

If you’re on SSDI benefits, it’s because your disability prevents you from going to work and earning enough to cover your expenses. However, a lot of people on SSDI benefits want to give work a chance. They think that maybe if they just had a bit of time and knew that they wouldn’t lose their benefits, they could succeed at a job.

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That’s why the Social Security Administration (SSA) has made program rules and incentives that can help you work without having to worry that you’ll lose the benefits you need. For most people who get SSDI benefits, these work incentives function like a three-stage process that begins when you get a job:

  1. The Trial Work Period lets you work and get benefits at the same time, no matter how much you make.
  2. When the Trial Work Period ends, the three-year Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) lets you work and get benefits for every month that you earn less than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level ($1,220 in 2019).
  3. For the first five years after you stop getting benefits, Expedited Reinstatement means that if your income drops below the SGA level, you can quickly get back on SSDI benefits without having to completely re-apply.

These three incentives mean that you can get a job and see how it goes. If it goes well, you’ll be in a better financial situation than before. If it doesn’t go well, you will be able to get SSDI benefits and be in the same situation as you were before you tried out working.

Here we’ll explain the Trial Work Period, Extended Period of Eligibility, and Expedited Reinstatement in more detail. See DB101's SSDI Work Rules FocusPopup Link for a detailed example of how the SSDI work rules work.

Record and report changes in your earned income

Income recording: It is very important for you to keep track of your earned income, because Social Security will periodically ask to verify it. This means that you should keep all of your pay stubs and documentation of work incentives, such as receipts for your Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs) or Blind Work Expenses (BWEs), in one place. A good way to do this is to get a binder and add this documentation to your binder each month. You can also put any letters you get from Social Security in your binder, take it with you whenever you go to a Social Security office, and take notes every time you communicate with Social Security.

Income reporting: For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must tell Social Security right away if:

  • You start or stop work
  • You reported your work, but your duties, hours, or pay change; or
  • You start paying expenses for work because of your disability.

If you don’t, you risk getting an overpayment and you may have to pay back those benefits to Social Security.

To report changes, contact your local Social Security office and ask how and when you should report your earnings. You may be able to report:

Note: If you get SSDI benefits and also get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must report your income to SSDI and SSI separately. Learn more about SSI income reporting in DB101's SSI article.