How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble

Artwork: Robin Mead

A few rules and regs that may help you out if you are considering going back to work while on disability.


๐Ÿ’ฎ You are allowed to work while on disability. If you earn under $1,170 per month it is possible (but not guaranteed)ย  that you will still be considered disabled.

๐Ÿ’ฎ There are some work incentive programs that will allow you to earn a higher amount and possibly still be considered disabled.

๐Ÿ’ฎย There are also special rules for people who are blind that will allow them to earn a higher amount.

๐Ÿ’ฎ If you are self-employed, they will consider the amount you earn after business expenses. They may also consider a yearly average.


๐Ÿ’ฎ You must report to Social Security when you start working.

๐Ÿ’ฎ It is a good idea to notify them in writing and send it by certified mail or bring it to your local office and get a stamped receipt.


When you go back to work, there are three things you need to consider

๐Ÿ’ฎ First: Will this affect my disability check financially? Learn a whole lot more about Working and Financial Regs.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Second: Will this affect my future medical reviews? Learn a whole lot more about Working and Medical Reviews

๐Ÿ’ฎ Third: Will this affect other benefits? If you are on medicaid, medicare savings programs, food stamps, utilities assistance, HUD housing, or any other income-based programs, it is a good idea to research the regulations to see how working may impact your benefits.


The financial regs and the medical regs are totally separate areas. This is the number one way people run into problems with their disability case while working. You need to consider both areas separately.

๐Ÿ’ฎ You may be totally safe according to the financial regs, but run into problems with the medical regs.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Or you may be totally safe according to the medical regs, but run into problems with the financial regs.


๐Ÿ’ฎย Here’s a good guide to Requesting Disability Accommodations in your work place.


๐Ÿ’ฎ Yes. Do call Social Security to notify them every time you stop or start working. Let them know any changes to your income right away. Even better, notify them in writing.

๐Ÿ’ฎย  No. Do not call Social Security to ask specific questions about working regulations.ย The people who answer the phones at Social Security are not trained in the complex working regulations, especially when it comes to SSI. They may know a little of the basics, but it is very common for them to give out wrong information in this area.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Many of the readers here have learned the hard way: If you call Social Security and they tell you the wrong information, and you follow it, you will be the one who owes money back, or who has problems at your next medical review. If you say, “someone at Social Security told me it was OK to do this,” that will not help you at all.

๐Ÿ’ฎ If you want more info about working, you can research the written regulations on the Social Security website. In some cases, work rehabilitation programs will also be able to answer your questions but it is always best to double check everything yourself.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Learn more:ย How to Respond When Social Security Tells You Weird, Funny, or Random Things


๐Ÿ’ฎ If you call Social Security or read online or talk to work incentive programs, you will be told you are allowed to work.

๐Ÿ’ฎ It is true! You are allowed! However, you are also allowed to eat nothing but cotton candy and ice cream for the rest of your life. Just because you are allowed to do something does not mean it will work out well for you and you will have no problems.

๐Ÿ’ฎ In some situations, the work you do may be considered during your next disability review, or may trigger an extra review. It is possible to still pass a review, and many people have no problems passing reviews while working, but it is helpful to learn more so you don’t have any issues. Some people on SSI run into problems with the financial regs and owe money back. If you learn the regs and plan ahead you can avoid these problems.


๐Ÿ’ฎ Many people just go out and get a job and think they have no problems.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Sometimes this is because there really are no problems! But sometimes this is because Social Security is very slooow. It can take a few months or a few years before they get around to processing your file.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Next time you meet someone who says they are on disability and working, ask them how long it has been since they notified Social Security that they are working, and ask them if they have been through a medical disability review while working and if they passed the review without problems. If they have, maybe they can give you some tips!


If you are able to work and earn more than $1,170 per month, Social Security will no longer consider you disabled and your disability check will discontinue.

There are some exceptions to this rule called work incentives. The most popular work incentive is Trial Work Periods. If you are on SSDI, you can have nine months of Trial Work Periods where you can earn more than this without your disability check ending.

Trial Work Periods are very confusing. Please be careful. It is easy to misunderstand and not realize how many of your trial work periods you have already used.


๐Ÿ’ฎ If your condition has improved and you want to go off disability benefits, that is wonderful! It may be possible to keep your benefits while you transition back to work. It may be possible to keep Medicaid, even after you are working full time.

๐Ÿ’ฎ If you are planning to go back to work and go off disability benefits, you may be helped by looking into a Ticket to Work program and other work incentives. Your local Vocational Rehabilitation program may also be able to help. If you are on SSDI, also look into Trial Work Periods. It is possible to keep your benefits and health insurance while you make the transition.

๐Ÿ’ฎ Most states have special Medicaid programs for working people with disabilities. Look into what is available in your state. Make sure to look specifically at the programs for working people with disabilities – do NOT look at the guidelines for regular medicaid health insurance. In some states, you can earn $75,000 per year and still keep your Medicaid!


If you are still disabled and wish to try working part-time while receiving benefits, please take a look here:

How to Handle Disability Reviews While Working

How to Be Prepared for a Continuing Disability Review

How Work Incentives Work

Ticket to Work programs are designed to help people go off benefits and transition back to work full time. If you are well enough to do this, great. If you are not well enough to do this, please be careful. Many of our readers report bad experiences in this situation.


Social Security has some special rules to help people who are blind and working.

Breaking News

If you are on SSI and have a smartphone, you can use an app to report your wages. If you don’t have a smartphone, and wish you did, look here.


4 thoughts on “How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble”

  1. Vocation Rehabilitation has a work incentives worker. They are outsourced by the federal govt to work to help people navigate the challenges of the finances and benefits while getting back to work while on SSI or SSDI. It’s so complicated to navigate. The people who do the social work as a work incentives worker have been great. Some more knowledgeable than others. Its good to know how long someone’s had the position to know how much they may know.
    DId you know if you get off SSI while on SSDI that you could still keep your medicaid. A work incentives worker can fill you in on the details.
    They are very helpful in knowing the ins and out of the programs of ssi, ssdi, the finances that need to be worked out ahead of time for going back to work and all the inns and outs of this, and also how other programs coordinate. Also, the do the PASS program for SSI which is a work incentives program where they help you set up your own business and your ssi payments get set aside in bank account while you work. (that’s a simplified version of the program.
    On the business side of things, if you want to set up your own business there are great free coaching programs. SCORE is in the federal building in our community. It’s a great organization. We also have Mountain Bizworks. There are probably ones like it in other cities.
    Another add on is that I bought a house while on Section 8,SSI,food stamps, etc because of the section 8 family self sufficiency program that lets you use section 8 money towards buying a home. I used my local Ontrack for free financial advise and home buying help which is a service funded by federal govt. It was through my local United Way agency, but different counties may have it under different names and the agencies are very different across regions in their level of cohesiveness and help.


    1. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post and all your great information, Sharon.

      You are the first person I have met who bought a house through Section 8. I would love to hear more about how you did this and how it worked out for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I too would LOVE โค๏ธ to learn more about the inโ€™s & outโ€™s of buying a house via section 8 assistance regulations.
    Because of my disability, inability to work & the consequent finical hardship, my parents own the little duplex i live in (it was purchased in their name) and for the past several years they have completely paid the monthly note as well as upkeep costs (& often times helping with the utilities as well ๐Ÿ˜”)
    When they took over my house note payments, that money was counted against me by the SSA as โ€œincomeโ€ and keeps me from qualifying for SSI… as well as any of the state-based financial assistance and other need-based assistance offered to SSI recipients, like food stamps, phone, utilities, Medicaid, PASS employee re-entry incentive program, many voc rehab opportunities,( etc etc etc).

    However, soon the house will be paid in full, and there will be no monthly mortgage or mortgage insurance cost… therefore drastically reducing the amount of โ€œincomeโ€ that SSA tallies up to determinine my SSI qualifiers… and I would then become eligible for SSI, and the many additional federal and state need-based assistance and incentives.

    At that time, once I qualify for SSI, etc, how can I utilize the Section Eight assurance/incentives to purchase the property?
    Or, by law re section 8, must i purchase a different property (from someone who is not an immediate family member) in order to apply section 8 funding/assistance?

    (Anyone who has any info…
    either personal experience or through researching this topic… please fill me in with any tips &/or steer me to linked info.
    Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚)


    1. hi barefoot girl,

      I am glad to hear you will be able to get more support and assistance.

      If it the house belongs to your parents, you would still need to pay some amount of rent to your parents if you wish to qualify for full SSI. There is no need to wait until the house is paid off, it is something you can start doing now. the guidelines are here:

      Free rent only reduces your SSI by one third. It does not disqualify you. If you got turned down for SSI, there is some other reason besides the rent. Do you know what it is? Are you currently on SSDI?

      I do not know about buying a house with section 8. The first step would be to contact your local housing authority and/or any agencies that administer section 8 in your area and seeing if any of them offer house purchasing as an option. Some areas offer this and some do not.

      Other options could be:

      – you could apply for section 8 housing vouchers, to help pay some of the rent to your parents.

      – your parents could give you the house. It makes you ineligible for assistance for one month. After that it is excluded, as long as you live there.

      Of course, if the house is a duplex, and you rent out the other side – this would be rental income which would count.

      PASS and vocational rehab are not income based. Anyone can do them.

      There are certain types of ways your parents can support you that do NOT affect SSI. For example, there is a huge difference between them paying a car payment and them paying your utilities.

      More information about this is here:

      However, before reading the links above, it would be good to figure out if you even qualify for ssi so you don’t give yourself a headache for no reason ๐Ÿ™‚ There must be something else that is keeping you from qualifying right now.

      hope this helps โค


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