If you or a loved one suffers from a mental or physical disability that prevents engaging in consistent gainful work, then you have likely been exploring your options for government benefit support. The Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) program is available to individuals who can no longer work because of a physical or mental disability and have paid taxes into the Social Security system for a minimum number of years. Upon approval, a benefit recipient will receive monthly SSDI payments which are based on their earning records.
What Is the Income Limit for SSDI?
In order to be eligible for SSDI benefits, you must fall below a certain income level. What income, however, is included for purposes of calculating SSDI benefit eligibility? Well, it may be better to start with what is not included in this calculation. You see, the SSDI program does not limit the amount of assets or unearned income an applicant or benefit recipient may have. This differs from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program which is geared specifically towards disabled individuals with low income and financial resource availability.
Unearned income refers to a variety of income sources. For instance, unearned income includes income generated from investments, a spouse’s income, and interest accrual. You can also hold an unlimited amount of assets and still qualify for SSDI benefits.
While there may not be a limit on the amount of assets or unearned income an SSDI applicant or benefit recipient may receive, there is a limit on the amount of earned income generated by such a person. This is due to the fact that a person who earns a substantial income is not considered disabled for Social Security disability benefits purposes. Substantial income results from what the SSA refers to as “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). If a person earns over a certain amount, then he or she is said to be engaging in SGA and will not qualify for Social Security disability benefits. In 2021, the SGA limit is set at $1,310 for disabled SSDI applicants and $2,190 for blind applicants. The SGA limit is based on the national average wage index.
While the SGA limit is intended to help ensure that only truly disabled individuals are receiving these benefits, it is not intended to discourage a benefit recipient from trying to go back to work and transition out of the need for receiving SSDI benefits. The SSA does not want the fear of hitting income limits to deter benefit recipients from trying out a return to work. This is why the trial work period was established. For those benefit recipients who want to try out a return to the workplace, but do not want to jeopardize the receipt of benefits should things not work out, the trial work period acts as a safety net for such a situation.
When in the trial work period, which extends nine months out of a 60 month period and does not necessarily have to be consecutive, an SSDI recipient can try to go back to work without jeopardizing disability benefits. For 2021, any month that an SSDI recipient earns over $940, it will be considered a trial work month. When an SSDI recipient reaches nine months of earning over $940 during the trial work period, then the SSA begins reevaluating the person’s work to determine if it reaches the SGA limit. If it does reach the SGA limit, then SSDI benefits will be paid out for a grace period of three months and then terminated.
The specifics of SSDI qualification can be difficult to unravel. That is why the trusted team of disability attorneys at Roeschke Law is here to help you. Contact us today.