How Much Can I Earn While on Social Security Disability?

By Disability Resource Staff, March 5, 2021 | 12:46 PM

If you are disabled and qualify under the social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, how much money you make on social security disability will be mainly dependent on your working income before you were disabled. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) and Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) to determine how much money you can earn while on Social Security Disability.

Each year, the amount your SSDI check will be will change, as the values can change annually. Below is the average amount of SSDI payments from 2018 through 2020 and how much you can receive on social security disability in 2021:

Average Monthly Benefit

What Income Affects Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security work incentives are broken down into various options for those who receive social security disability benefits and are working:

Trial Work Period

First, you can be eligible for the Trial Work Period. This allows you to work for at least nine months while still receiving your FULL social security disability benefits, irrespective of how much you are earning. You will have to report your work and demonstrate that you continue to have a disability. A trial work month is determined if your total earnings are greater than $910 in that month or if you work more than 80 hours in your own business. This period will continue for nine cumulative trial work months in a sixty-month period.

Extended Eligibility Period

If the Trial Work Period has ended, you can still work and receive benefits for thirty-six months, so long as your earnings are not “substantial.” In 2020, the SSA considered any earnings over $1,260 (or $2,110 if you are blind) to be substantial.

Expected Restatement

The SSA also provides an Expedited Restatement if you stop receiving your benefits because you received substantial earnings. This incentive allows you to request the benefits to begin again within five years if you are unable to continue working due to the disability or your condition. You will not have to file a new application, nor will you have to wait for your social security disability benefits to restart while the SSA reviews your medical condition.

Medicare Continuation

Even if your social security disability benefits stop based on your ‘substantial’ earnings, you can still qualify for the free Medicare Part A coverage for at least 93 months after the Trial Work Period.

How Much Can You Make While on Social Security Disability?

During the first nine months of beginning to work (the Trial Work Period), your income will not affect your benefits. However, if during the Extended Eligibility Period in 2020, you did exceed the $1,260 threshold, your benefits stop. Nonetheless, even if you did reach that threshold, the SSA does allow you to deduct expenses relating to your disability (i.e., counseling services, having to take special or more expensive transportation, copayments for prescriptions) from your earnings. Those expenses could demonstrate a lower earnings amount and would allow you to continue receiving your benefits.

How Much Can You Make While Receiving SSI?

The SSI work incentives set different standards and rules around how much you can earn while receiving SSI benefits. The SSI benefits payments continue until your earnings, and other income exceed SSI income limits, which differ on a state-by-state basis. However, if SSI payments cease, Medicaid coverage usually continues if your earnings are less than your state level.

The SSI payments usually will directly correlate with the other income you have. Therefore, if your other income increases, your SSI payments will usually decrease. If SSI payments and the money earned in a job are your only income, then each month the SSI payments will only be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar you earn over $85. For example, if you earn $1,000 in a month, which came only from the SSI payments and your work earnings, then the $1,000 would first be reduced by $85, which equals $915, which would then be divided by 2. Therefore, your total SSI payment would be reduced by $457.50.

How Much Can I Earn While Drawing Social Security Disability Year-by-Year?

It is important to remember that each year the SSA may adjust the Substantial Gainful Activity limits based on the national average wages and changes with those averages. Below we provide the SGA limits from 2010 through 2020 to demonstrate the changes in limits per the changes to national average wages and how much you can earn before your social security disability benefits are affected:

Annual Countable Earnings for Non-blind Individuals Only


Unemployment Assistance