If I Earn More Than The SGA Level, Will I Only Have To Repay The Amount That I Exceed The Limit?

Nov 4 2018 - 10:24am

Hello Larry,
I had a question regarding SSDI. I am listed as a disabled child through my parents and a year ago the administration said I would have an overpayment letter and it has been a year since they mentioned that with no letter. How long does it usually take for an overpayment letter to be sent if one did occur? Also, I have been told that you only pay back the SGA amount you went over by so for example if the SGA is 1,180 and I made 1,190 I only pay back $10. That came from an employee, is that accurate? I am constantly worried about an overpayment letter so any advice would be great! Also it seems like I only go over SGA during holiday months which is 3 months a year because my hours go down if this information helps.

Thank you


No, it's much more complicated than that. In some cases, earning more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level can cause your Social Security disability (SSDI) and/or disabled adult child's (DAC) benefits to be terminated altogether.

If you work while receiving SSDI or DAC benefits, you initially are given a 9-month trial work period (TWP) during which you can be paid all of your benefits no matter how much you earn. In order for a month to count as one of your TWP months, you must earn more than the TWP amount set for that year. In 2018, the TWP earnings threshold is $850. After you've completed your 9 trial work months, which don't necessarily have to be consecutive by the way, Social Security then has to determine whether or not your earnings are considered SGA. If they decide that your earnings are SGA, your SSDI and/or DAC entitlement would be determined to have ceased. However, you can be paid full SSDI or DAC benefits for a grace period of 3 months starting with the month of cessation, and for any months that you don't earn above the SGA level during at least the 3 year period following the completion of your TWP.

In determining whether or not your work is SGA, Social Security normally uses average monthly earnings. So, the fact that you earned $10 over the SGA limit in a single month wouldn't necessary cause your SSDI or DAC benefits to be terminated. If you've been working the same job with similar duties and hours throughout 2018, Social Security would likely divide your total 2018 earnings by 12 to get a monthly average. If that amount is less than the 2018 SGA guideline of $1180, Social Security will probably decide that your work in 2018 was not SGA. In that case, you probably wouldn't be overpaid at all. On the other hand, if Social Security determines that you did perform SGA you could lose your benefits altogether and be asked to repay benefits for any past months for which you weren't entitled to benefits.

Social Security would normally send you a notice within a month of when they make their determination, so it's possible that Social Security has either decided that your work wasn't SGA or else they may be waiting for more information in order to make their determination. For example, they might need to wait until your total earnings for 2018 are known so that they can determine your average monthly earnings for the year. You might want to contact your local Social Security office to check on the status of your case.

Best, Jerry