Working While Collecting Social Security Disability


by Jacques Chambers, CLU

Many people who are collecting disability under either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental security Income (SSI) would like to attempt to do some work. Working can provide a supplement to income, but more importantly, working improves the spirit and can help alleviate the depression that often accompanies total disability.

For persons with PD symptoms, there are days when some work is possible even though it may not be eight hours, five days a week. Many people, however, are hesitant to try any type of employment out of fear that it may jeopardize their Social Security benefits.

Both SSDI and SSI are programs that permit some work to be done without losing benefits. However, it is important before starting to earn any wages that you thoroughly understand Social Security's rules about work. Mistakes and misunderstandings can result in overpayments that must be paid back to Social Security as well as the possible loss of benefits.

The limits that Social Security puts on work are totally different between SSDI and SSI. If you are receiving both SSDI and SSI, both sets of rules apply which can really complicate the process.

Some important points to be aware of that apply to both plans:

1. Consider a "Dry Run." Before attempting to do any type of regular work for wages, make sure you can physically and emotionally handle a regular schedule. Start with a volunteer project, anything as long as it involves some regular hours and no wages. Several weeks or months of this will give you a good idea of how well you might handle some employment.

2. Once you start working for wages, keep all paycheck stubs. These will serve as a record of your work hours, your gross and net pay, and the time period in which the wages were earned. (Don't assume Social Security will know your earnings. Although SSA does receive records of payroll taxes being paid, Social Security is approximately two years behind in posting them to your account).

3. Keep records of additional expenses you incur due to working and your disability. Social Security allows you to subtract from your earning expenses you incur that are necessary for you to work. This can include the cost of special transportation to and from work, assistive devices, etc.

4. Unless you are going to be earning very small amounts, it may be a good idea to notify Social Security of your plans to attempt to do some work   either by certified mail or by personally delivering a letter to your local office. Be sure and get a signed receipt for it. (Some people are afraid this will trigger a review of their disabled status. This is not usually the case. Social Security is generally too overloaded to track and compare people trying to work with their Disability Review date which is set at the time the prior one is completed).

5. It may be important, however, not to follow the wage maximums too closely. If Social Security notices wages just below the maximum limits on a consistent basis month after month, sooner or later they will become "curious" to determine if your limited work is really due to your medical conditions or ifyou are intentionally keeping your income low to qualify for benefits.

Do more research on Social Security and Work before actually starting to earn wages. The rules regarding working while collecting disability benefits are complicated and you need to understand the SSA's policies on "countable income." The Social Security website at has a wealth of information about working while collecting benefits: See Working While Disabled at http?;;

Jacques Chambers, CLU, and his company, Chambers Benefits Consulting, have over 35 years of experience in health, life, and disability insurance and Social Security disability benefits. For the past twelve years, he has been assisting people with their rights, problems, and other issues concerning benefits and disability. He can be reached at or through his Web site at: Adapted article; original published by Hepatitis C Support Project © September 2008.


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