I applied for disability benefits a few months ago and I’m still waiting to hear back. But I need some money to take care of myself and my family! Am I allowed to work while waiting for disability? I was thinking of picking up a few hours a week delivering Instacart orders. Will that cause me to lose benefits? I need to pay my bills but I don’t know what to do. What are my options?
It’s a tough predicament and rest assured you’re not alone. Many people struggle to make ends meet while they’re waiting for disability benefits. You’re doing the right thing by getting informed, and there are two main things to know.
First, it is possible to hold a job while on disability (and while applying for benefits), but you have to be very careful. If you work too much or make close to $1,470 per month, the Social Security Administration might think that you don’t need disability benefits.
Second, your ability to work depends on whether you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Let’s briefly look at both.
You can work while waiting for SSDI, but the SSA may reject your application if it decides that your work activity is substantial or gainful. Substantial means that you’re working close to the same amount as before your disability (or as if you never had a disability). Gainful describes how much money you’re making that you pay taxes on. Specifically, are you making enough to support yourself without benefits?
In 2023, the maximum income that most people can make while still receiving disability benefits is $1,470 per month. This is gross income (before taxes or insurance are removed). Just earning close to this limit could be enough for a judge to deny you benefits.
It is possible to make “passive income” on SSDI, like from renting properties as a landlord or making money off the stock market.
Supplemental Security Income is a bit different since it’s based on financial need, not work history. To qualify for SSI, you need to meet the income and asset limits. You must make less than $914 per month and have less than $2,000 in overall resources — savings, investments, etc. Any work income that puts you over these limits will put you at risk of having your application rejected or losing your benefits.
You can see exactly which assets count for SSI in this guide to working on SSI.
So, with all that said, what other options do you have to make ends meet?
Still not sure what to do? If you’re applying for disability benefits, fill out this short disability quiz and we’ll reach out to answer your questions and connect you with an experienced disability lawyer. (Our service is free and you only pay the lawyer if you win your claim.)
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