Person in wheelchair moving down hallway of office

Can I Work and Still Receive My Disability Benefits?


Disability benefits are available to those who suffer from a disability or medical condition that makes it so they are unable to work. These benefits are offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and are meant to help you pay medical bills and everyday living expenses.

If you are receiving disability benefits from the SSA and are working part-time work, there are certain factors you should know about that may affect your disability benefits status. Exceeding the Substantial Gainful Activity income limit while working aprt time on disability may jeopardize your benefits.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is any work that brings in a certain amount of income per month. This is what the SSA uses to determine whether or not you are disabled, because if you are able to make over a certain amount of money per month, you can make competitive income in the national economy with your condition. For 2019, the SSA is:

  • $1,220 per month for non-blind applicants
  • $2,040 per month for blind applicants

If you make over the SGA income limit amount when you apply for disability benefits, the SSA will almost certainly deny your application. On the other hand, if it can be proven that your work does not count as substantial gainful activity, even if you are over the income limit, you may be passed onto the next step in the SSA’s evaluation process, which is an evaluation of your medical eligibility.

If you quit your job before applying for benefits, you have to prove to the SSA that it was because your disabling condition had worsened and left you unable to work, not because you wanted to make sure you were not exceeding the SGA income limit.

Even if you do not make an income that is over the SGAE limit, the SSA may still want to evaluate your work ability. In other words, low earnings do not mean you are unable to work, and the SSA will still look into the nature of what you do to see if you are able to work and the low wages are just your choice.

This is applicable in cases of volunteer activities, for instance. You may be a volunteer childcare provider for your local health care center. Even though you do not get paid for this work, the fact that you do it proves that you can work as a childcare provider with your disability and do not need disability benefits.

On the other hand, earning a high wage does not necessarily mean that you are performing substantial gainful activity. You could be working under special conditions that cater to your disability, which is not a true representation of your ability to work.