How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble

Art: Robin Mead

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


💮 You are allowed to work while on disability. If you earn under a certain amount called SGA you can continue to be eligible for disability benefits.

💮 Just because you are eligible for your benefits to continue, that does not guarantee that your benefits actually will continue. There are a few important things to learn in this area.

💮 Before reading the rest of this page there are two things you need to know:


💮 You need to know that there are two different types of social security disability: SSI and SSDI.

💮 We’ve heard from many readers who thought they knew if they were on SSI or SSDI and turn out to be wrong! Never hurts to double check: How to Tell What You’re On


💮 You also need to know that there are two different types of social security policies that affect working: Medical policies and financial policies.

💮 If you have been trying to figure out the work rules, but find that you are feeling confused, getting told conflicting information, or reading something that does not make sense, this is probably the reason: Someone is mixing up the medical policies with the financial policies.

💮 These policies are totally different and if you mix them together you won’t be able to figure anything out!


💮 That makes four different areas to consider: SSI financial rules, SSI medical rules, SSDI financial rules, and SSDI medical rules.

💮 OK, then. Time to read the rest of this page:


💮 Financial Rules: For every $2 you earn, your check will go down by $1. That is the very simplified version. It is actually a lot more complex and there are many exceptions to this rule. Learn a bunch more here: Working and Financial Regs.

💮 Medical Rules: Even if you stay under the earning limit, you will still have to pass Continuing Disability Reviews. During reviews, they will decide if your condition has improved. Sometimes your work activities can impact this decision. Learn more here: Working and Medical Reviews


💮 Financial Rules: You don’t have to worry about any financial rules from Social Security. However, you may find it helpful to check out these: Five Secrets About Social Security Disability, Working & Taxes

💮 Medical Rules: These are the same rules as for SSI. Even if you stay under the earning limit, you will still have Continuing Disability Reviews. During reviews, they will decide if your condition has improved. Sometimes your work activities can impact this decision. Learn more here: Working and Medical Reviews


💮 If you are receiving Disabled Adult Child benefits (Social Security from one of your parents) then it gets a bit complicated. Special Notes for Disabled Adult Children Who are Working

💮 If you are receiving Survivors benefits because your spouse or ex-spouse has passed away, follow the same rules as SSDI. This is only for age 50-60. Once you reach age 60, you no longer have to prove you are disabled, as you will automatically qualify for survivor’s benefits either way.


You should also research how working might affect your 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.


Important tip from readers: One common reason that people go over the limit without realizing it is: months with extra pay periods.

If you get paid twice a month, this means that some months you will actually get paid three times times! Then the next month you will actually get paid one time! To find out, look at a calendar and see how many pay days fall in the same calendar month.

Some of our readers wound up owing money back because they didn’t take into account months with extra pay periods.


💮 If you start working, you may be able to keep Medicaid. Even if you earn waaaaay too much money.

💮 If you are not on Medicaid now, you may be able to get Medicaid, even if you earn waaaay too much money, or your spouse earns waaaay too much money, or you have waaaaay too much money in the bank.

💮 Learn more: How to Get or Keep Medicaid While Working with Disabilities


💮 If you want help figuring out your benefits, you can try contacting a Centers for Independent Living in your area and ask if they can connect you with someone who can advise you on working and benefits.

💮 You can also get benefits counseling through Work Incentives Planning Assistance programs. Note: Some work incentive programs are designed to help you go back to work full time and transition off benefits. They are paid by the number of people who get off benefits.

💮 Disability Benefits 101 – Great information on working while receiving disability benefits in Alaska, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio

💮 Does the Government Help Me Work After I Get Disability? Great article by Alison Hayes, explaining some of the government programs available to help you work.

💮 Vocational Rehabilitation programs can sometimes provide you with funding for training or other assistance in getting a job.


The amount you can earn is called SGA. It looks like. simple number, but it’s actually quite tricky: learn about SGA


💮 You must report to Social Security when you start working.

💮 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.

💮 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.


💮 If you need accommodations: Here’s a guide to Requesting Disability Accommodations in your work place.

💮 If you are blind: Social Security has some special rules to help people who are blind and working.

💮 If you are self-employed: Here’s a few Special Notes for People Who Are Self-Employed


💮 No. Ticket to Work is a program some people use when going back to work. It is not required. You can just go out and get a job on your own, if you wish.

💮 Ticket to Work is designed to help people transition back to work and go off disability benefits. Readers report mixed reviews on Ticket to Work. Helpful in some situations. Not helpful in others. Learn more about How Work Incentives Work


💮 Yes. Do call Social Security to notify them every time you stop or start working or if your work hours increase or decrease. Even better, notify them in writing.

💮  No. Do not call Social Security and ask them questions about work policies. Many, many of our readers report being told incorrect information about working regulations (especially about SSI financial policies).

💮 Many of the readers here have learned the hard way: If you call Social Security and someone tells you the wrong information, and you follow what you are told, you will be the one who runs into problems or owes money back. If you say, “Someone at Social Security told me it was OK to do this,” that will not help you at all.

💮  See links above for where to find answers to questions about working and benefits. You can also read the written regulations about working on the Social Security website: work incentives.



💮 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 may be possible to keep your benefits and health insurance while you make the transition.


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

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

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

  1. I am 52. Once I move, and the income cap for Working Disabled more than doubles for me, I was weighing whether to work myself off SSDI. I had it pop into my mind yesterday, “I wonder if they would recalculate my retirement benefit if I succeed in leaving the SSDI program.”

    Does anyone know if working myself off the roles would result in the negative outcome of lower income in retirement? I have many zero and near-zero income years due to the low income caps for Working Disabled and the Part D wrap program..



    1. I have wondered about this as well, as the formula for non-disabled people it’s calculated differently then for disabled people. I wish I knew who you could consult with who would even know the answer to this. Some work incentives programs have more knowledgeable staff and others. It might be worth contacting some benefits counselor to see if you can find a knowledgeable one.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I am working now and I am almost at the end of the nine months of the Ticket to Work Program. I would also like to know about my retirement. I will let you know if I get an answer from the case manager.


      1. The reply I received from the SSA was, yes it will be recalculated. However, her response about my 20 years of zero and near-zero income did not make sense. How can I not get less in retirement?!! The math does not seem all that complex, and I never married, so there is no possibility of collecting on a spouse’s record.

        I am still going to try because the total income limit will be more than double in my new state, and a big part of my plan, hoping to break-even at least, it to contribute to the maximum in retirement accounts. Be careful! Most states, including where I live now, do not allow saving in retirement accounts. It is considered an asset. I will make sure I have both an ABLE account (have now, plan to close after buying house in new state) and an SNT opened before turning 65, which is my understanding is the last chance to open one. I disagree with the advice of saving for retirement in an ABLE account, because if I die suddenly, or have something happen to me where I cannot drain it at the last minute, Medicaid gets it as “payback.” The SNT has the same issue but with the an ABLE contribution limit being rather low, I can envision the SNT being a release valve for being “over resourced” again, and losing Medicaid. I am unusual where I run in the over-resourced problem frequently.

        The big thing I learned about the SNT from my conversation with a paralegal working for an attorney who specializes in special needs, as well as other estate planning, is if I want choice at the end of my life, it is the way to go, My mother, who lives in a nursing home now, is illustrative of how I do not want to spend my final years, everything from “sticky” everywhere, to clothing all with a blue-gray cast from not sorting them for washing, to poor pain management (she complains she is in pain all the time, am in contact with a state Ombudsman), to two TVs running different programs all day long, to having my food taken by a much younger roomie, to staff reactivating and charging a debit card for Netflix (caught it, got refund for her, reported to state), to food and drinks all the same temperature: lukewarm.

        I know I need my knees replaced and will save up enough to pay for whatever is needed for home care services not covered by Medicaid. I have saved enough, using my home as an investment, that I will buy a two-bedroom next, in case I need staff to be there overnight If covered by Medicaid, wonderful. If not, i will pay to be home with my own TV, hot and cold foods, and a dog on my bed. After I no longer work, I will have SNT and ABLE savings to draw for such home supports in the future. I absolutely will not go to a nursing home — ever.


        1. Thank you for this post and for sharing all of this great information.

          One thing I wanted to mention: there is something called a “ disability freeze.” I do not know how it works, however my limited understanding is that during years when someone is officially declared disabled Those years can be not factored into the formula for calculating the Social Security check so zero income years will not count. I still don’t know all of the Complexities of the formula or how this would play out for someone who stops being disabled.

          Medicaid paybacks an able account… Some states have revoked the Medicaid pay back rule for ABLE accounts. However, the funds in the ABLE account would go into the person in the state and Medicaid can still have an estate recovery on the person’s estate. I believe that Only happens if a person dies when they are over the age of 55 or in a nursing home or institutionalized. I believe that a first party self funded special needs trust would have an automatic Medicaid pay back. I am not an expert in this area, just mentioning a few things I’ve heard in case helpful.

          It sounds like you are doing a great job of planning for your future and being strategic and thoughtful. Thank you again for sharing all of this excellent information.


  2. who would follow the “survivor’s benefits” rules? you can earn quite a bit more (18,960 in 2021). not that I plan to earn that much but it wouldn’t be stressful going over $50 and be easier to find a job


  3. I started a few hobby blogs years ago. Blog post every now and then. They did have a few advertising-links. I got bored with the blogs years ago and discontinued them. Forgot about them completely. I have memory issues and trouble focussing which are a few reasons I m on ssdi .m I realized recently I made a small amount of $ i never bothered to check the advertising $ i made since it was a hobby only.
    Don’t know what to do now I m onssdi, I do know I need to claim the $ on my tax return
    The amount very low. ? Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do? Or not to do?


  4. Hi, does anyone knows how to report your income when on SSDI? I know you can report through an app or the website when you are on SSI but I will like to start working soon on my own (self-employed) and I am calling SSA tomorrow but I cannot find information about how or where to report income when on SSDI. When I go to the SSA website under: Report Wages, it says: *There are no active employers on record at this time. Thank you


  5. If you found a good Employment Network (EN), how did you do it?

    My situation is better than most: College educated, high “DI,” own my small house and a car. The high DI long kept me off Working Disabled Medicaid. A program change fixed that, except it ruined my work history (out of work for eight years) and credential. (Saw no point paying for a professional license when the DI prevented me from working in any meaningful way as it put me just $400 a month away from losing Part D wrap program. (Meds cost > $100K a year.) I am well versed in Medicaid.

    I am on a three-year cycle for CDRs, and for whatever reason, was not reviewed on time last year. I have a business idea but have no business education, except for the required course in accounting in college. I tried SCORE this time last year, and the first person was likable until I revealed I was on SSDI. He changed. I felt uncomfortable and asked for reassignment and the next person would clip every sentence I attempted to say. Saw her once, never went back. However I still need help! Voc Rehab examined my case–twice–and felt i should clean homes and work for the elderly. Nothing in my background would say that was an appropriate match to my experience, aptitude (intuitive thinker, strong in math) and education (a health care profession).

    I also tried SSA ENs last year. Sent out a mass email, to 25 I believe, introducing myself, experience and goals. Several came back for bad email addresses, which I reported. This year, I am picking SE ENs only, and the first one seems to be overwhelmed, has not asked me in the last two weeks of contact even what kind of business I am trying to start. I have picked up on that her “new” CWIC information equals “Benefits Counselor,” and I already have access to that but do not trust her answers. With everything to lose, I need and deserve to know the whys to health insurance answers from the Benefits Counselor.

    Do I just keep moving on to the next EN for the self-employed? Do I assign my Ticket to put out the fire for what I believe is a CDR notice coming at any moment? I think the average person would disbelievingly laugh that it so had to work while disabled but it is, and I do want to work on a business plan with someone who is respectful and knowledgeable, so I do not have to flounder so much in my attempts. I also need answers, relevant to my state on health insurance. I believe Working Disabled Medicaid, so long as I stay within the limits for assets, total income and unearned income in my state for that program, would continue, even after Medicare drops after 8 1/2 years.


    1. Thank you for sharing this.

      I don’t know anything about ENs, but hopefully someone else may see this and answer.

      Very smart how you are approaching this. Have you had any new progress or developments?


  6. Hi there, how are you? I hope well. By the way, if I never thanked you or mentioned how helpful you and your website are, I want to say it now. I truly appreciate and am grateful for all your hard work in providing us with this information.

    I have a situation that I would like your feedback on. I am 53, and had worked the majority of my life. It was all I know. It has been tough being disabled and not working. It made me even more depressed and discouraged.

    A friend of mine offerred me a part-time job. I wouldn’t work more than 4 to 6 hours a week, if that. It’s flexible, I can take off when need be which will work with my conditions. It pays very little. If I make $50 weekly, it would be a lot. I wouldn’t be doing it for the money, but for my mind.

    My concern is losing SSDI. I can’t work full time anymore. I’m still seeing doctors and dealing with my conditions which is why I had to stop working at my previous job of 23 years where I was paid well.

    What is the proper protocol? If I made $50 weekly would I still have to report it to SSA even if it’s not considered SGA? How does this work? Thank you.


    1. HI pva,

      Yes, you would need to report that you are working.

      Many people work small amounts and continue on SSDI, as long as their medical records are clear that they are still disabled and would be unable to work full time.

      Hope it goes great for you.


  7. I’ve done something wrong, as I’m not getting the sites feed? I’ll go back and trace my steps. I thought so much worked should be shared.

    This website has everything for disability, home health care, a great service to all of us,


  8. My son is on SSI and SSDI. Because he works a part time job, he doesn’t get any check for SSI but he does get $558 for SSDI. Normally, he is always below the $1180 allowable income, but in October (and May) there are 3 pay periods so, he will be over for those months. Should we be concerned about going over those 2 months????
    Also, we didn’t realize he got 3 paychecks in October, so we only reported 2. Should I just report the 3rd paycheck dated 10/31/19 in November? Is this a big deal???
    Just starting on all this, so any advice is appreciated.


    1. This is a smart thing to be thinking about.

      In my understanding, your son is allowed to go over income a limited number of times. These are called “trial work period months”.

      The rules for trial work periods are deceptively complicated and it is common for someone to go over the allowed number of months without realizing it.

      It might be helpful to contact one of the programs listed in the links above to see if anyone can advise you in this area. You can also request from Social Security that they mail you something called a “benefit planning query” I believe this will tell you exactly how many trail work months he has and has not used.

      If it turns out that your son has already used his trial work period months, then going over last month may trigger a continuing disability review where they review his medical records again.

      If it turns out that he hasn’t used all of his trial work period yet, then going over for one month should not have any big impact on him.

      Either way, it would be good to get in touch with Social Security and update/correct the amount he received last month as soon as possible. I do not think it will be a big deal to correct this, but I do not know the specific details of the best way to go about it.

      Hope that it goes well for him.


  9. A couple points i wanted to add that might help other people avoid the problems i am having right now.

    Disabled and earning?
    Every single agency that you rely on will interpret what you are doing as completely against their rules in every way they possibly can.

    I started doing passive income by having my lifeline phone watch advertisements to make $0.002 per ad watched, (paid in gift cards).

    (not sure about he rules for posting about other websites here so i will not.)

    When it built up to $10, (a few months), i bought a couple of $5 pre-paid phones online and had them do the same,(all over wifi)… rinse and repeat.
    Long story shorter is that i now have many phones and can make $120-180 per month by simply restarting my phones every couple days and re-starting an app.

    Family services says i am earning money even though they also claimed that they do not count store specific gift cards as a resource… i am told it is still earnings that count against our food stamps.

    SSI says that it is not earnings but unearned income and that i have to repay every cent of what the phones earned to social security to repay what i “should not have been paid” by them.

    For us, i am currently trying to get SSI to see it as earned income (the IRS counts me as an independent contractor) and am limiting future earnings to only $65 in gift cards per month. It is still a hit to our food stamps, but if i can get SSI to switch categories, then i can be under their limit.

    Why do i want to do this?
    Because i am disabled and i still wish i could do something, (even just to say that i did), is my primary reason. I have on my record two years that i wasn’t able to make more than $750… for the entire year! I am disabled and i get SSDI and SSI, TA and Food Stamps each month to live on and i am grateful, i honestly am.
    I have done this for 19 years now. I CAN NOT WORK – not because i cannot work at all, but because i cannot KEEP working!

    All these agencies, all with help to get back to work or to help while you cannot. What about helping someone to intermittently work without threatening everything that the entire family depends on?

    This is passive, it is something that i can say that i do. . . Stresses of getting what you wish for in having the government agree that you are useless to the workforce. Sorry – ending selfish rant.


    1. Thank you so much for sharing all of this done. Please let us know how it goes.

      I do not know these rules well, but I think the determination about earned income and unearned income may have to do with how you report this on your taxes? If you are establishing yourself as a small business and you are following the regulations for self-employment, I believe Social Security would count this as self employment Income? Self-employed people are also be able to write off any business expenses and those would not count towards SSI. For example the cost of the phone, as well as if you had any impairment related work expenses. Hope that it goes well for you.


      1. Thank you for replying sleepygirl.

        I agree that SSi ‘should’ go by what i report to the IRS, which is that i am an independent contractor, i.e. self employed small business and the rules for SSI agree with this too. The problem i see is that – as i said – each agency apparently considers anything outside of what they consider normal as being opposed to their rules.

        My situation probably would not apply to most people.
        I do not accept people giving me $5 to give them a ride to somewhere because i would have to report it as income to family services and the irs. That is just how i am built.
        I give the ride for free.
        I earned $2004 last year from the phone app, i paid taxes on those earnings to the irs. This year i am not doing as well and am only on track to do $1700 for the year.
        But now, since this whole phone earning gift card thing is new to SSI, they are counting it as if i repeatedly won lotteries month after month after month, “unearned income” and i owe the entire amount of ssi back to them for almost all of the months.

        We received a official statement from SSI saying that we would receive less in SSI going forward to repay them even though we filed an appeal and they should not have sent a new payment plan before deciding the appeal which we have not been present for as yet.

        My comment was honestly not intended as being against working or earning money, but it was and is intended as a caution that people should definitely call and get something from the agencies that they depend on for living month- to month in written form that says what will happen to them if they do x in earnings. A person on the phone from family services or social security can say whatever they want and it doesn’t help when the agency turns against you.

        GET IT IN WRITING. if it does not exist in writing then it does not exist! Even then, even if you have it in writing, be aware that not all writing is equal and not all writing will be honored.


          1. Thank you for the links, i hadn’t seen the first two of those and the third one with all the examples, while i had seen it… didn’t seem to fit my situation and just made me more confused.

            Hopefully have specific places to point at in their rules will get them to think of it differently.
            This whole thing just makes me so tired.

            Thank you again!


  10. How do you report work (the start of work and earnings) to the SSA via mail? Is there a formalized way of doing so? And can I call AND mail in order to make sure they hear about it in a timely fashion?


    1. I am no expert, but we have been using the Social Security Mobile Wage Reporting app downloaded from the App Store (google play store or apple store). This is what we were told to do at the Social Security office.


  11. I too would LOVE ❤️ to learn more about the in’s & out’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 😔)
    When they took over my house note payments, that money was counted against me by the SSA as “income” 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 “income” 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! 🙂)


    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 🙂 There must be something else that is keeping you from qualifying right now.

      hope this helps ❤


  12. 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 2 people

    2. Hi Sharon
      Can you tell us what state you are in . Btw sleepy girl thanks so much for all this help . I wish the helpful systems weren’t so broken …

      Liked by 1 person

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