Three Ways It May Be Possible To Earn More Than The Social Security Disability Limit

Posted on: 23 June 2017

People who are receiving Social Security disability benefits can still work if they're capable. The problem is the Social Security Administration (SSA) only allows recipients to earn a maximum of $1,170 per month ($1,950 for visually impaired people) before it will begin reducing their disability payments. However, here are three ways you could conceivably earn more money without it affecting your monthly check.

Take Advantage of the Trial Period

The SSA encourages people on disability to work and has several programs available to help facilitate that transition. One of those programs is the trial work period. This is a period of time (the first nine months) where the money you earn is not counted against you, and you will still receive your full benefit payment regardless of how much money you make in that trial month.

The trial months don't have to be completed in consecutive order, and the only months that count are those where you earn over $840. Additionally, if you don't complete the full nine months within 5 years, you may be eligible for another nine month trial period, because those trial months you did use will fall off your record at the five year anniversary date.

Therefore, you could strategically use these months to maximize your income and put money into savings for times when you are unable to work because of your disability.

Be aware that if you are still trying to get approved for benefits, your case manager will take your recent work history into consideration. If it appears you can work without too much trouble, your application may be denied. You should also be aware that SSA will begin offsetting your benefits with your income once the trial work period ends.

Deduct Impairment-Related Work Expenses

Another way it may be possible to earn more than the maximum amount allowed by the SSA with minimum ill effects is to claim impairment-related work expenses (IRWE). If you need services, equipment, or other accommodations to work that are not required by an able-bodied person, you can deduct the expense associated with the item from the monthly income you make from your job.

If you're visually impaired, for instance, you can deduct the cost associated with obtaining and maintaining a service animal (e.g. licensing, food, vet care) from your income for the month the expense was incurred. You can still deduct the cost of the IRWE even if you need to use the service or device in your personal life as long as you also need it to perform your job duties.

However, the expense must be paid by you in cash, check, or money order. If it is paid by someone else (e.g. Medicaid) or you are reimbursed for the cost by another party, you cannot deduct the expense. Additionally, the cost of the item must be reasonable, i.e. the expense must align with what is normally charged for the accommodation in your area.

Prove SGA is Less Than the Actual Wage

Sometimes employers will pay a disabled employee more than his or her SGA (substantial gainful activity) is actually worth. For instance, the employee is paid $20 per hour, but the work he or she actually does is only worth $10 per hour. SSA agents will investigate the recipient's employment to determine if the person's SGA aligns with the amount he or she is being paid. If the SGA is less, the agency will treat the excess pay like a subsidy and it won't count as earnings.

The employer does have to explain his or her reasoning behind subsidizing your pay. If the SSA accepts the employer's explanation, you'll be allowed to continue earning the extra amount without it affecting your disability payments.

For more information about this particular issue or help with your Social Security disability claim, contact a social security attorney.