Person handing another a check.

It’s not easy to get approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits—especially if you are not working with a Tampa Social Security disability attorney. In fact, over two-thirds of initial applications for SSDI benefits are denied. Even if you are approved for benefits, this does not mean that you will continue to receive benefits forever. Your benefits may stop for a number of reasons, including how much money you earn every month. If you earn too much money, you will no longer qualify for SSDI benefits.

Are you allowed to work if you are approved for SSDI benefits? How much money can you earn per month if you have already been approved for SSDI benefits? Here’s everything you need to know:

What is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

The SSA will only approve your application for SSDI benefits if it is determined that your disability prevents you from engaging in what is called “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA. The SSA defines SGA as any type of work that brings in a certain amount of money every month.

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This monthly income limit is adjusted annually. In 2020, it is $1,260 for non-blind disabled applicants and $2,110 for blind applicants. This means if you are a non-blind disabled individual, you will not qualify for SSDI benefits if you earn more than $1,260 from work per month.

It’s important to note that the SSA will only look at how much you earn from working, not from other sources of income. For example, the SSA will not count money earned from investments or interest toward your monthly income. The SSA will also not look at how much your spouse earns per month when determining your eligibility for SSDI benefits.

What Happens If You Engage in SGA While Receiving SSDI Benefits?

If you are approved for SSDI benefits, you are required to notify the SSA of any changes to your employment. This includes:

  • Starting or stopping work
  • Pay changes
  • Hour changes
  • Duty changes

Why does the SSA need to know this employment information? If you start working after being approved for SSDI benefits, you may no longer be eligible if you earn more than $1,260 per month from your work. This is because the SSA would no longer consider you disabled since you are performing enough work to earn more than the SGA monthly limit, which is $1,260.

If you return to work and earn less than $1,260 per month, the SSA would not consider your work to be SGA. Therefore, you would not lose your benefits as a result of your decision to return to work.

What is the Trial Work Period?

There is one exception to the SGA monthly income limit rule: the trial work period. If you are currently receiving SSDI benefits, the SSA gives you an opportunity to test your ability to work during a trial work period that lasts for a period of at least nine months.

If you participate in the trial work period, you will continue to receive the full amount of SSDI benefits regardless of how much you are earning from work. There is no limit on the amount of money you are able to earn during this period—you will not lose your benefits.

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The trial work period will end once you have earned more than $910 per month for nine months in a 60-month period. If you are self-employed, the trial work period will end once you have earned more than $910 or worked more than 80 hours per month for nine months in a 60-month period.

After your trial work period ends, you will enter an extended period of eligibility.

What is the Extended Period of Eligibility?

The extended period of eligibility is a 36-month period following your trial work period. During this time, you can continue to receive SSDI benefits for any month in which your earnings from work are not considered “substantial.”

For example, say January is the last month of your trial work period. In February, you earn $1,500 from work, but in March, you only earn $900. You would not receive SSDI benefits for February since your earnings are over the SGA monthly limit of $1,260. However, you would receive SSDI benefits for March since your earnings are below this limit.

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You won’t need to reapply in order to get benefits for every month you qualify during the extended period of eligibility. As long as you are within this 36-month period—and earning less than the SGA monthly limit—you will receive SSDI benefits.

What Should You Do If You Are No Longer Able to Work After Your Benefits Stop?

Many people who receive SSDI benefits successfully return to work, which means they will no longer qualify or need benefits. But if you cannot continue to work and your benefits have already stopped, you need to take action right away to reinstate your SSDI benefits.

You have five years to ask the SSA to reinstate your benefits if you cannot continue to work due to your disability. Fortunately, you will not be required to submit a new application or wait for months to hear whether or not you are approved. However, you must make sure that you request an expedited reinstatement within this five-year period.

Let Our SSDI Attorneys Help You Obtain Benefits

The rules regarding your monthly earnings and eligibility for SSDI benefits are complex. That’s why you should seek legal representation if you need legal advice regarding your benefits.

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Furthermore, if you are unable to work as a result of a disability, let our SSDI attorneys in Tampa guide you through the process of applying for benefits. If your application has already been denied, our team can also assist with the process of appealing the SSA’s decision. We know what it takes to get approved. Let us work tirelessly to ensure you are awarded the benefits you need and deserve.

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