YOU ASK:

How much can I make while receiving social security disability?

WE ANSWER:

As long as you don't go above what Social Security defines as substantial gainful earning. This 2010, "gainful earning" is set at $1,000 per month. For those who are declared statutorily blind, the limit is set at $1,640 for 2010.

If you earn more than this, though, it does not automatically mean that you lose your social security disability benefits. There is what is called a trial work period. The key thing is that you should still be suffering a disabling impairment and that you notify Social Security about your activity. The trial work period is designed to help you "get back on your feet", to see whether you are now able to get back to work. Within the trial work period, you can earn as much as you can and still keep your benefits. The trial work period is up to nine months.

After the trial work period, if you still earn above the specified substantial gainful earning, then you will lose your social security disability benefits since you are no longer considered as disabled. If, after the trial work period, your income decreases or you are unable to work due to your impairment, then you can take up your disability benefits again for an additional 3 years after the trial work period has been completed.

In addition to your income, Social Security will also check your combined income. This is computed by adding half of your social security benefits plus any dividends, interests, taxable disability insurance benefits and any other taxable income.

If your benefits are not completely cut, it may be reduced based on your income. The more you earn, the less your disability payments will be. What happens is that Social Security reduces your benefit with 50 centavos for every dollar over and above the first $85. For instance, if you have total earnings of $1,000 a month, the payout is based on $915 ($1,000 less $85). Fifty cents for every dollar of $915 is $457.50. Social Security will deduct this from your next disability benefit check.

A tip:
You can actually earn more than the specified $1,000 per month since any work expenses related to your impairment is deducted from your income. These may include expenses or items that you use for your daily living such as a wheelchair, a cane, a personal job coach or occupational therapist and any other work equipment that is specially designed for your needs.

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