Invest Wisely

What You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Income Limits

by Mark Sander5 min read
Social Security Disability Income Limits

Individuals with disability may be eligible to receive benefits from Social Security, provided they meet the program’s requirements. Apart from medical and employment conditions, Social Security also qualifies individuals based on their financial status. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits are available for individuals who are not capable of working due to their disability, and for this, Social Security disability income limits are implemented.


Social Security Disability Income Limits

While there is no limit on an individual’s amount of assets or unearned income (income that your spouse earns), the Social Security Administration (SSA) puts a limit on the amount of income you earn from working while you are on Social Security disability benefits. This is under the premise that, when you are capable of working, you are not considered disabled.


Substantial Gainful Activity

Generally, individuals are not allowed to receive disability benefits while engaging in “substantial gainful activity” or SGA. In short, you are engaging in SGA if you are working and earning an income that is more than the SGA limit of $1,170 per month. If you are blind, SGA limit is $1,920. Social Security uses the national average wage index in determining the Social Security disability income limits for the SGA each year, and the amount of income considered as SGA depends on the nature of an individual’s disability.


Unearned Income

Unearned income pertains to any income that is not received through employment or self-employment. Spouse’s income, interest, and investments are considered unearned income, therefore Social Security does not put a limit to this. Others include pension or retirement benefits, veteran’s benefits, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation benefits, life insurance payouts, inheritance, alimony and child support payments, income from rental properties, union benefits, or any money provided by a another person to pay for your personal expenses.


Trial Work Period

There are some cases when SSDI recipients want to go back to work but they are worried that they will not be able to perform well due to disabilities. The SSA provides a trial work period to encourage persons with disabilities to return to work.


Through the trial work period, SSDI recipients can test their ability to work while receiving full benefits, regardless of whether or not they exceed Social Security disability income limit for at least nine months within a 60-month period before your disability has ended. For the year 2017, the trial work month is any month a disabled person earns a monthly income of over $840. For self-employed individuals, trial work month is any month you work for more than 80 hours or earn more than $840.


When you render your services for the nine-month trial period, the SSA will evaluate your work to determine if you exceeded SGA limits. If you exceeded the limit, you will continue to receive your disability benefits until three months and then it will stop. But if your income falls below SGA limit or if you quit work due to disability, you will receive your benefits again within the next 36 months.


If you stop work due to disability, the SSA will let you reinstate your benefits within five years. In this five-year period, you will no longer need to file a new disability application and you will be entitled to expedited reinstatement.