This Is How You Can Work and Still Get Social Security Disability

You worked hard, earned an income and supported yourself and your family. Then a health crisis crashed into your life.

You need financial assistance so you can better take care of yourself. Social Security Disability benefits provide just that kind relief and peace. But can you still work and make some money to help with bills?

It’s a question many people ask, partly because it can take months or years to qualify for benefits, and you need to make ends meet in the meantime—and partly because disability payments aren’t some kind of jackpot. Even with them, money is tight.

The challenge is this: A successful application for disability benefits, and holding onto benefits once you’re approved, hinge on the fact that you cannot work because of your health.

If you work and earn too much, or you do it in the wrong way, Social Security will deny your benefits, or cut you off. Instead of working you may find you’ll need to look for support from non-profit organizations or other government programs to help you stay afloat.

You can find out how working will affect your Social Security Disability benefits in your particular case by talking to the highly experienced Ohio disability lawyers at Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal.

We work with the Social Security system all day, every day, for people just like you in Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and across Ohio. We help carry the load while you focus on managing your health. “Helping me, that’s HNB.”

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    Can I Still Work a Little While I Apply for or Collect Social Security Disability?

    We understand how important work is to people. In a small way, Social Security does, too. It has a program that lets you work to a certain point before it would reject your benefits.

    You can still get approved for and collect Social Security Disability if your work amounts to less than what Social Security calls “substantial gainful activity” or SGA.

    You can also work, earn more than SGA, and continue receiving benefits that already started by going into a “trial work period.”

    The dollar amounts for each of these programs change over time. This is where they stood in 2024:

    • Substantial Gainful Activity for an individual (2024): You could earn less than $1,550 per month and still get disability benefits.
    • Trial Work Period (2024): If you make more than $1,110 from working in any month, that month counts toward a trial period when you can keep benefits.

    For your “trial work period,” Social Security gives you nine months when you can earn over threshold, which can be spread over five years.

    After you have used all the months in a trial work period, you have another three years during which you can earn income under the SGA standard.

    For any month you make more than SGA, your benefits will pause. But they will resume in another month when you make less than SGA. This “extended period of eligibility” allows you to restart your benefits, if needed, without having to apply all over again.

    Throughout these time periods, it’s critical that you are open and honest with Social Security. Any attempts to “game” the system by hiding or distorting information can jeopardize your benefits or worse: You run the risk of being accused of fraud.

    Whether you’re applying for benefits, fighting a denial, or grappling with Social Security’s attempt to end your benefits, the Social Security Disability attorneys at Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal can help.

    It costs nothing to discuss your situation with us as you decide your next step.

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    Can I Lose My Benefits if I Try To Work But then Have To Stop?

    Attempting to work and failing may not threaten your benefits—and in a way it can help prove you deserve them. Showing you tried and couldn’t work can bolster your case.

    These are rules you have to consider.

    Social Security defines what it calls an “unsuccessful work attempt” as any job that lasts less than six months or where your income drops below the “substantial gainful activity” threshold because of your mental or physical health condition. (Again, that SGA limit reached $1,550 a month in 2024.)

    Social Security also counts it as an “unsuccessful work attempt” if you had to stop working or cut back significantly on what you earned because your employer stopped accommodating you for your condition or impairment.

    Job accommodations include working irregular hours, taking frequent breaks, getting help from colleagues, or being allowed to perform at a lower level of productivity.

    If you can do different work altogether, and your employer lets you, that could mean ceasing of your Social Security Disability benefits. But if you can only work with accommodations, and your employer doesn’t provide them, you could get an unsuccessful work attempt and still receive benefits.

    Dealing with a disability is hard enough on its own. Don’t be hard on yourself.

    Let the disability lawyers at HNB do the heavy lifting when it comes to engaging Social Security. The most important thing for us is helping you improve your sense of well-being.

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