How Much Can I Earn Without Losing Any Of My SS Disability Benefits?

Nov 10 2018 - 7:08am

I have been on Social Security Disability since 2010. My husband was also on disability. He passed away in 2013. I have been receiving half of what he made plus my own. My question is: I would like to drive for Lyft or Uber. How much can I earn a month without losing any of my SS disability benefits?

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss.

If you haven't previously done any work since going on Social Security disability (SSDI), there would be no limit on how much you could earn for the first 9 months without losing any of your SSDI benefits. That's because Social Security gives you a 9-month trial work period (TWP) in which to try working without the chance of losing your benefits. In order to count as a TWP month in 2018, you would have to earn more than $850 in a calendar month. You only get one 9-month TWP in a period of disability, and the TWP months do not necessarily have to be consecutive.

After you've completed your TWP, Social Security looks at your average monthly earnings in order to determine if your work should be classified as 'substantial gainful activity' (SGA). The SGA guideline is $1180 in 2018, but both the SGA and TWP amounts are adjusted annually. If your earnings do average over SGA after completing your TWP, you could cease to be eligible for disability benefits which could cause your SSDI benefits to be suspended and eventually terminated if you continue earning above SGA level. For more information on working while disabled, refer to the following Social Security publication: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf.

Whether or not SGA would affect your survivor benefits depends on your current age. If you're at least age 60, you are receiving regular widow's benefits instead of disabled widow's benefits (DWB). DWB has the same earnings limits as SSDI, but if you're between ages 60 & your full retirement age (FRA) your survivor benefits would be subject to the Social Security earnings test. The Social Security earnings test exempt amount in 2018 is $17,040, meaning you could earn up to that much without losing any of your survivor benefits assuming that you are at least age 60 (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html). The Social Security earnings test does not apply to SSDI benefits, however, so you'd need to stay under SGA levels to continue receiving those benefits.

Best, Jerry