Can I work after I am approved for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI)?

May 08

Q: Can I work after I am approved for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI)?


This is a common question that many people have after SSA (Social Security Administration) has approved SSDI benefits.  Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.  In classic lawyer lingo, “it all depends on the facts”.  SSA will always consider income from any work in determining eligibility or continued eligibility for SSDI benefits.

Eligibility for social security disability benefits.

For an individual to become eligible for social security disability benefits either under the SSDI or SSI program, SSA evaluates every claim under a 5-Step Sequential Evaluation process.  Once SSA determines an individual disabled, an individual must continue to satisfy the 5-Step Sequential Evaluation for disability benefits to continue.  SSA will evaluate income from any work under Step 1 of SSA’s 5-Step Sequential Evaluation.

Step 1

For an individual to be eligible for disability benefits or continued eligibility, an individual must establish that the individual is not engaged in any work that SSA determines to be Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

How does SSA define work that is SGA?

In some situations, determining whether an individual is engaged in SGA is complex.  For example, SSA has special rules when an individual is self employed.  Typically, SSA looks at the gross amount of income earned from any work an individual earns in a month.  If an individual’s monthly gross income equals or exceeds the monthly SGA amount that SSA established for that given year, SSA will presume that the individual is engaged in SGA.

SGA Amount

The SGA amount for 2015 is $1.090.00 for the non-blind and $1,820.00 for blind.  The SGA for any given year can be found at SSA’s website.

If an individual’s income from any work is under SGA, SSA may consider the income as evidence that the individual’s impairment has improved and SSA may conduct a continuing disability review (CDR) of the claim.

SSA encourages individuals receiving disability benefits to return to work.

SSA offers to all SSDI recipients a Trial Work Period (TWP).  A TWP is designed to encourage a recipient of SSDI benefits to re-enter the work force for up to 9 months while not jeopardizing disability (SSDI) benefits.  Thus, an individual can work for up to 9 months and earn above the SGA amount and continue to receive disability benefits.  If an individual cannot maintain employment because of the impairment and the work stops within the TWP, benefits will continue.  Likewise, if work last longer then 9 months, benefits will cease.

Trial Work Period (TWP)

A TWP only applies to recipients of SSDI benefits and not SSI recipients. The 9 months for the TWP do not have to be consecutive and an individual can only use the TWP one time.  The trigger to commence a TWP clock is when an individual earns a gross monthly amount that is over SSA’s established TWP amount.  Each year the triggering TWP amount changes.

Trial Work Period Amount

In 2015, the TWP is $780.00 gross per month. Visit for the TWP amount for a particular year.


There is no bright line answer to the question: “Can I work part-time and not jeopardize my disability benefits?” Establishing what and what is not SGA and when a TWP starts and ends is confusing to both claimants and some representatives.  The bottom line is that SSA will take into consideration any work at any amount in assessing whether an individual is eligible for disability benefits and whether eligibility of disability benefits will continue after finding that an individual is disable.


It is our opinion that working is like chicken soup in that working is good for the heart, body and soul.  We encourage our clients to return to work if they can work or at least try to return to a less demanding physical and/or skill level job.  Disability benefits should be treated as a safety net for temporary financial assistance when returning to work is not feasible because of a decline in an individual’s health.

If you do return to work while receiving SSDI or SSI benefits, you should always notify SSA in writing of your work and your wages.  You should retain a copy of any correspondence you send to SSA for your records.  You should always respond to any questions SSA has regarding work and earnings.

If you have specific questions concerning your unique situation, you should contact your local SSA directly.  If you have general questions, you should contact SSA’s main number of visit SSA’s website,