Published on: May 8, 2023
The 2023 limits on earning for people receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are different from that for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.
The Social Security Administration administers both programs, but each program serves different groups of people. Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are reserved for workers and former workers who become disabled either by an injury or illness that prevents them from working for at least 12 months.
Eligibility for SSD benefits depends on whether the applicant worked and paid taxes for long enough and recently enough to earn the minimum number of work credits. Typically, it takes 10 years of work to accrue the required work credits, with half earned during the 10 years before filing a claim for SSD benefits.
The Supplement Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, is available only to disabled people who have low income and very limited financial resources. Typically, SSI recipients will have been unable to become eligible for SSD benefits because their disability prevented them from working long enough to accumulate the required work credits.
SSD and SSI Recipients Allowed to Earn Different Amounts
Each of these programs has different rules and regulations that apply to how much a benefits recipient can earn and still continue to receive benefits.
The only significant criteria that both program share is the definition of what constitutes a disability:
According to the Social Security Administration, a disability is a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that last or is expected to last for 12 months (or results in death) and prevents the person from performing substantial gainful activities.
Let’s look at the Social Security Disability program first.
For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, there is a monthly limit to how much you can earn through work activity, called the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. In 2023, the SGA limit for non-blind individuals is expected to be $1,470 per month, while the SGA limit for blind individuals is expected to be $2,460 per month. If you earn more than these limits, your SSDI benefits may be reduced or. discontinued.
Benefits paid through the Social Security Disability program are intended to provide a partial replacement for the salary or wages lost as a result of the claimant’s disability. If a claimant earns more than the income that is considered “substantial gainful activity” ($1,470) per month, then they will no longer meet the SSA’s definition of “disabled.”
However, only earned income is considered when counting earnings for purposes of SSD eligibility. A claimant’s income from investments, a spouse’s income, or the sale of assets. Only money earned from providing services or working is counted.
Trial Work Period Allows More Earnings
If you are receiving SSD benefits and you think you may want to try to return to work but fear earning too much will disqualify you from your benefits, you should know about the Trial Work Period (TWP).
SSD allows benefit recipients to attempt a return to work without penalty. To encourage people to try working, the SSA allows an SSD claimant to work and earn an unlimited amount of money for nine months, while still receiving their full SSD benefits. The 9 months do not need to be consecutive but must be within a 5-year period. Any month in which a benefit recipient earns more than $1,050 is considered one of their 9 TWP months.
There is more to know about this program, including more details about the Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE).
Making Money While On Supplement Security Income (SSI)
Earning money while receiving benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is treated very differently than how SSD treats earnings.
For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the amount of money you can make is also limited. In 2023, the federal benefit rate (FBR) for SSI is expected to be $914 per month for individuals and $1,371 per month for couples. However, your actual SSI benefit amount may be reduced if you have other sources of income or resources, such as wages or savings.
Supplemental Security Income benefits are only available to disabled individuals who have low income and limited financial resources. People on SSD receive the same benefit payment amount each month which is determined by a formula using their average earnings over 35 of their highest earning years.
In contrast, SSI recipients can receive a different amount each month. Every SSI recipient is presumed to be entitled to $914 in benefit payments each month, less the amount of countable earned income they receive during the month. The income they earn must be reported each month.
SSI separates income into two categories, earned income and unearned income. Unearned income is not counted against the claimant’s benefit payment unless it is contributed to their housing or food costs. Certain government-funded subsidies from HUD or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are exempted.
But earned income, meaning any dollars earned through work performed or services provided, are countable unless the benefit recipient spends the funds down on recognized exempt expenses. For example, uninsured medical expenses and disability-related work expenses are deductible from countable income.
The Social Security Administration also exempts the following income from counting:
- the first $20 of each month,
- the first $65 earned each month, and
- 1/2 of income earned over $65 each month.
If you are receiving disability benefits and are considering returning to work, it's a good idea to consult with a disability attorney or a Social Security Administration representative to understand how your benefits may be affected by your earnings.