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Work and Your Social Security Retirement or Disability BenefitPrintE-mailPDF

Becoming disabled or retiring can mean a big change in your income. If your income is reduced that can be a real hardship. Going back to work may be an option. You can earn some extra income depending on what type of social security check you receive. This fact sheet will answer some of your questions. For more information go to:

Will I lose my Social Security disability benefits if I work and earn money?

Individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits can work and still receive monthly payments. There are some special rules.

A trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months. The nine months do not have to be consecutive. A trial work period can last up to 5 years. During your trial work period, you will receive your full Social Security benefits regardless of how much you earn. However, you must still be disabled and you must report your earnings to SSA.

In 2012, a trial work month is any month in which:

  • your total earnings are over $720; or
  • if you are self-employed, you earn more than $720 (after expenses); or
  • you work more than 80 hours in your own business.

After your trial work period, you can work and still receive benefits for an additional 36 months. Your monthly earnings cannot be considered "substantial." In 2012, earnings over $1,010 per month ($1,690 per month if you are blind) are considered substantial. No new application or disability decision is needed for you to receive a Social Security disability benefit during this period.

How much can I earn while receiving Social Security retirement benefits?

If you work and are full retirement age or older, you may keep all of your benefits, no matter how much you earn.

If you are younger than full retirement age, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full Social Security benefits. If you are under the full retirement age:

  • you can earn $14,640 a year and not lose any benefits in 2012.
  • SSA will deduct $1 in benefits for every $2 earned above $14,640.


If you are reaching full retirement age during 2012:

  • You can earn $38,880 a year and not lose any benefits in 2012.
  • SSA will deduct $1 for every $3 earned above $38,880.

The same earnings limits apply to a child or spouse who works and receives benefits on your record.


This article is meant to give you general information and not  to give you specific legal advice.
Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated April, 2012. CE-72-F227-CLAS

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