man is working on his computer, social security disability

It is possible for Social Security disability payment recipients to collect SSDI payments as they return to work. This allows workers to gradually return to work following a disabling injury. However, there are restrictions and it is important for recipients to understand how the process works so that they can budget and plan accordingly.

Substantial Gainful Activity

In general, the Social Security Administration considers substantial gainful activity to be income in excess of $1,170 per month, or $1,920 if the individual is blind. Individuals may not collect SSDI payments if their income exceeds these levels. There are exceptions to these limits and a Social Security disability lawyer can help individuals determine whether these exceptions apply to their specific circumstances. For example, there are many deductions workers can claim for the costs associated with returning to work which can lower the individual’s income so that they may continue collecting benefits during this time.

Testing the Waters

The SSA allows individuals to return to work for a nine-month trial period while collecting full SSDI benefits. The SSA considers any month where the individual earns $840 or more a trial month. For individuals who are self-employed, the SSA considers any month where the individual works more than 80 hours or earns $840 or more a trial month.

During this time, individuals may earn more than the threshold of $1,170 ($1,920 if blind) without any penalty or loss of benefits. After the nine-month trial period expires, individuals may continue to collect SSDI benefits during months when their income falls below the threshold. Individuals may collect these benefits for a period of up to 36 months.

Reinstating Benefits

Returning to work is the ultimate goal for many people collecting SSDI benefits. However, that’s not always possible and the SSA recognizes this. Sometimes, workers return to work only to have to leave later on because their disability returns or worsens. If this happens and a worker’s SSDI benefits are terminated because of substantial gainful activity, the individual has up to 5 years to have their benefits reinstated. Doing so does not require the completion of an application or review of the disability. The process is fast and this expedited reinstatement period allows workers to return to work without fear that they will be left without any income should their disability prevent them from working in the future.