Published on: November 14, 2023
In 2023, many individuals with disabilities in the US rely on two essential government assistance programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). These programs provide financial support to individuals who are unable to work due to disabilities, but they come with strict income limits. This blog post explains the income limits for SSI and SSDI in 2023, including the earnings that are not counted by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Understanding these limits and exemptions is crucial for individuals who want to maintain their eligibility for these vital benefits while working at the same time.
At Disability Experts of Florida (disabilityexpertsfl), we focus all of our professional attention on helping people with disabilities collect the maximum amount of Social Security benefits to which they are entitled based on their qualifications and the severity of their disability. If you have a question about your SSDI or SSI eligibility, contact us today for a full review of your circumstances and we will help you determine what your next step should be. We are always here to help you.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI provides financial assistance to individuals with disabilities who have a sufficient work history and have paid Social Security taxes. Unlike SSI, SSDI benefits are not means-tested, meaning there are no strict income or asset limits to qualify. Instead, SSDI eligibility is based on work history and disability.
While the SSDI program does have income limits, there are specific rules regarding earnings that individuals should be aware of that allow them to earn more income than may seem permissible under the rules at first glance. To understand these flexible rules, let’s look at what the Social Security Administration defines as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).
The SSA defines SGA as the level of earnings that exceeds a minimum level set by the SSA each year. In 2023, the threshold is $1,350 per month for non-blind individuals and $2,260 per month for blind individuals. Earnings above the SGA threshold can potentially impact SSDI eligibility.
However, there are exceptions to the strict cap that can allow an SSDI recipient to earn more than the SGA and still continue to receive their full SSDI benefits. One of these exceptions is the Trial Work Period (TWP).
Trial Work Period (TWP): SSDI beneficiaries are allowed to try a Trial Work Period during which they can test their ability to work while still receiving full benefits. In 2023, any month in which a beneficiary earns more than $940 (the TWP threshold) counts as a Trial Work Period month. Each SSDI beneficiary can use up to 9 months of a TWP to see if they can continue to work earning income without jeopardizing their benefits.
During these 9 months, the benefits recipient can earn an unlimited amount of income and still continue to receive their full benefits. The reasoning underpinning the program is that these terms will encourage disabled individuals to at least attempt to return to a full-time work schedule because their benefits are guaranteed, despite their unlimited income.
These 9 months need not be consecutive. They may be any 9 months spread over a 5-year period. If an SSDI benefits recipient succeeds in returning to work and continues to work after they have exhausted their 9-month TWP, then they move into what is called the Extended Period of Eligibility.
What Is the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) The Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) is a 36-month period during which nth in which the SSDI benefits recipient will receive their full disability benefit in for any month in which their earnings do not exceed the not exceed SGA. And even if SSDI beneficiaries exceed the SGA threshold, they can continue to receive Medicare coverage for at least 93 months after the TWP ends.
Earnings Not Counted
It's important to note that not all earnings are counted by the SSA when determining SSDI eligibility. Some types of income and benefits are excluded from the calculation, including:
- Unearned Income: SSDI eligibility is primarily based on earned income. Unearned income, such as interest, dividends, or rental income, is generally not counted in the earnings calculation.
- Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWEs): SSDI beneficiaries can deduct certain impairment-related work expenses from their earnings when determining their countable income, as can many Supplemental Security Income recipients.
- Subsidized Employment: Earnings from subsidized employment or special conditions that make it possible for a beneficiary to work (such as working in a sheltered workshop) may not be counted by the SSA.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
SSI is a means-tested program designed to provide financial assistance to low-income individuals with disabilities and very limited financial resources, including the elderly. To qualify for SSI, applicants must meet specific income and asset limits, and their disability must meet SSA's definition of a disabling condition.
As Of 2023, The Income Limits For SSI Eligibility Are As Follows:
Federal Benefit Rate (FBR): The maximum FBR is the base amount of income that the SSA considers when determining SSI eligibility. In 2023, the FBR for an individual is $913 per month, and for a couple, it is $1,317 per month.
Unlike SSDI, a program in which a recipient’s are determined by their lifetime earnings over a long employment history, SSI benefits for all recipients a presumed to be set at the maximum level. in 2023 that maximum payment is $913 per month. Then, each benefit recipient’s benefit is reduced according to the amount of “countable income” they receive each month.
- Countable Income: Countable income is the amount of income that SSA considers when evaluating SSI eligibility. It includes various types of income, such as wages, Social Security benefits, and pensions.
- Income Exclusions: The SSA allows certain income exclusions that reduce the countable income used to determine eligibility. Some common income exclusions include:
- General Income Exclusion: In 2023, the SSA excludes the first $20 of most income received in a month. This means that the first $20 of income is not counted when determining SSI eligibility.
- Earned Income Exclusion: The SSA provides an earned income exclusion for individuals who work. In 2023, the first $85 of earned income (wages) and half of the remaining earnings are excluded from countable income each month. For example, if an individual earns $500 in a month, only $215 ($85 + $215/2) would be counted as income.
- Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWEs): Individuals with disabilities who incur certain expenses related to their impairment as a result of work may be able to exclude those expenses from their countable income.
- Blind Work Expenses (BWEs): Individuals who are blind may be able to exclude certain work-related expenses, such as transportation or guide dog expenses, from their countable income.
- Student Earned Income Exclusion: If an SSI recipient is a student under the age of 22, a portion of their earned income (up to a specified limit) is excluded from countable earnings.
As you can see, the rules and exceptions to the rules can be quite complicated. Disabilities Experts of Florida is always here to help you navigate these complex regulations. Call us today for help with your disability questions.