Social Security Income Limit

by Feb 7, 2020Disability Benefits, Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the Social Security Income Limit?

Social Security Disability is there when you need help. Situations arise where an individual is unable to work. This can be for several reasons, from a mental or physical disability or because of specific health conditions. However, many people do not know that there is a Social Security income limit. That means an individual is only allowed to earn so much before they no longer qualify for social security disability benefits. Let’s take a look at the income limit for qualifying for social security disability, and the different criteria surrounding it.

Your condition must qualify

When applying for disability, your condition must keep you from being able to perform a gainful activity. This means you must be able to perform a job that pays you a specific amount of money. This is referred to as SGA or substantial gainful activity. For example, the Social Security Act mentions a higher SGA amount for blind individuals, compared to those who aren’t blind. Similarly, federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts change with changes in the national average wage index. See the breakdown below for an example breakdown of how benefits were distributed over the years.

Monthly substantial gainful activity amounts by disability type
Year Blind Non-blind
1975 $200 $200
1976 230 230
1977 240 240
1978 334 260
1979 375 280
1980 417 300
1981 459 300
1982 500 300
1983 550 300
1984 580 300
1985 610 300
1986 650 300
1987 680 300
1988 700 300
1989 740 300
1990 780 500
1991 810 500
1992 850 500
1993 880 500
1994 930 500
Year Blind Non-blind
1995 $940 $500
1996 960 500
1997 1,000 500
1998 1,050 500
1999 1,110 700a
2000 1,170 700
2001 1,240 740
2002 1,300 780
2003 1,330 800
2004 1,350 810
2005 1,380 830
2006 1,450 860
2007 1,500 900
2008 1,570 940
2009 1,640 980
2010 1,640 1,000
2011 1,640 1,000
2012 1,690 1,010
2013 1,740 1,040
2014 1,800 1,070
Year Blind Non-blind
2015 $1,820 $1,090
2016 1,820 1,130
2017 1,950 1,170
2018 1,970 1,180
2019 2,040 1,220
2020 2,110 1,260
  a $500 amount applied in the first half of 1999.

As you can see from the example, income limits change from year to year. This figure takes inflation into account, which allows people to make more money overall to be able to cover living expenses. You can receive benefits while working part-time. In some cases, you can also work full time.

How the limit works

You can only earn so much while receiving disability benefits. If you exceed that amount, your disability claim will be denied. The reason for this is that if you can work enough to make enough to live on, you do not need disability benefits. In addition, if you are already receiving social security disability, your assistance will stop. Similarly, the Social Security Administration has set a limit to the amount you can earn while receiving benefits. Once you’ve exceeded this amount, it is their determination that if you can earn more than the set amount they have established, you are not in need of social security disability. Visit the SSA website to find out about SGA guidelines.

Can You Earn more than the SGA limit?

There are a few exceptions to every rule. The SSA will allow you to make more than the SGA limit for up to nine months. After the 10th month of exceeding the limit, you will be cut off from receiving social security disability.

This nine-month period is a trial work period for returning back to work. This system allows individuals the opportunity to try to return to work. They can see if it is possible. In some cases, an individual may feel motivated to return to work and earn their own income. However, after a while, their physical limitations and the form of employment may catch up to them and they have to leave the job.

The reason this system is in place is to enable some individuals the opportunity to return to the workforce. Eventually. the SSA hopes an individual will be able to leave the social security disability system altogether and provide their own income. This benefits the system because economic resources can be directed at those who absolutely need it.

More about the trial period

The trial work period by the social security administration requires that you earn up to the SGA limit for a month. Those months do not have to be continual. You can skip months and it can be any number of months with a 36 month period. This 3 year period allows individuals the flexibility to try to return to the workforce.

Wrapping up

Overall, the Social Security income limit is there to make sure that the people who need assistance are able to receive it. For some, it is only meant to be a temporary situation, until they can return to the workforce. For others, it is vital for their survival. They will need that income for an extended period of time, possibly their whole life. Having an income limit for those on social security disability makes sure that individuals who already earn plenty of income do not abuse the system. They cannot use it to increase their wealth even further.

Do you fall below the Social Security income limit?

You may qualify for Social Security disability. If you have questions about the application process, our experienced social security disability lawyers can help you. The application process can be involved. Our team is here to answer your questions. Fill out our simple form to start the process or call our office at (865) 566-0800.