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Risks of Ineligibility for Social Security Payments

As of 2017, approximately 9 million people in the US have been granted Social Security disability benefits. However, although these monthly benefits are helpful, they may not always be enough to cover a recipient’s full living costs.

If you’re also depending on Social Security payments for your daily expenses, you may be wondering whether you’re allowed to work without compromising your benefits. Here’s the good news: you can, but you have to meet a set of requirements.

With that, here are some key aspects to consider:

Substantial Gainful Activity

Before you can qualify for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines your capacity to earn. Engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA), or earning more than the amount of wage set by the SSA, is enough ground for ineligibility.

As of 2018, the limit for monthly income is $1,180. For visually impaired individuals, the threshold is $1,970. This means that as long as your earnings don’t exceed the SGA restriction, it’s okay to work.

Trial Period of Employment

The regulations on SGA limits are not always clear-cut. There are several exceptions to the rule, such as the trial work period allowed by the SSA.

After sustaining disabling injuries or a medical condition, it can be hard to determine if you will be able to get back to work. Thus, the SSA lets you test the waters for a certain period of time without risking your disability benefits.

During this phase, you can work while simultaneously receiving Social Security payments in full, regardless of how much you’re earning. This trial period continues until you have worked nine months within a timeframe of 60 months.

Eligibility Extensions

Social Security Administration Office Building in the United States

After your trial work period, you will still be eligible for receiving Social Security payments on any month where your income falls below the SGA limit. This extension of eligibility lasts up to 36 months. Moreover, the extended period is meant to protect you financially in case you fail to earn consistently due to your condition.

It’s also important to note that even if your disability benefits do get stopped when your earnings exceed the SGA threshold, you’re allowed a five-year period to have your payments reinstated. During this time, it’s beneficial to seek professional assistance from a lawyer. Having legal guidance improves the chances of having your Social Security disability claims approved.

Time Spent Working

The number of hours per week you spend on working also matters. For example, even when you’re only earning minimum wage, if you spend long hours per week to earn it, it may be inferred by the judge or claims examiner that you’re physically able to perform the work. Thus, it can be difficult to assert that your condition is indeed functionally limiting.

Actual Value of Work

The SSA also takes into account the actual monetary value of a benefit recipient’s work. There are times when an individual is able to earn more than the SGA limit without performing the amount of work required. This is because many employers subsidize the work of their disabled employees by giving them a full salary, although they aren’t able to perform up to the wage’s value due to their condition.

Thus, if your employer asserts that your work is worth less than the actual pay you’re receiving, the SSA may just count a portion of your total income when determining SGA.


There are more factors to weigh when it comes to SGA, so if you plan on pursuing extra work to supplement your disability benefits, it’s best to get an expert’s advice. Also, when you wish to apply for additional assistance, consult a Social Security disability claims lawyer from The Law Office of Andrew Reichardt if you’re located in Salt Lake City or other parts of Utah.

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