Can I Continue to Get SSI If I Begin to Work Again?

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Medicaid and Special Need Attorney

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program was developed to assist those with injuries and disabilities, both permanent and temporary, to be able to have some sort of income since these individuals are unable to work.  The thought behind the program was that it provides some sort of subsistence because the disability the person suffers from is so debilitating that it renders this person unable to work.  So when the person is able to work, and in fact starts working, it follows that SSI will cut off benefits to this person.  Fortunately, that is not the case.  When you begin to work, the Social Security Agency (SSA) will not automatically terminate your benefits.  It will allow you time to get back on your feet and get into a steady job before ending benefits.  Today’s blog will tell you about the ability to work while on disability.

If you are on SSI, and begin working, Social Security gives you a trial period during which time it will maintain full benefits and not lower or cut off your disability benefits.  You go through a trial period during a period of 5 years, if you make more than $810 in 9 separate months.  That means you do not need to have 9 consecutive months of work before you lose your benefits.  So if the job is temporary or seasonal, you can still accumulate 9 months of work if you make above $810.

Once you finish the ninth month of work, Social Security gives you another grace period.  This one lasts for 36 months and allows someone who is working to continue to collect benefits.  There is one catch.  The only way you can receive benefits during the 36 months is if you prove that the income made is not “substantial.”  Social Security in 2016 defined “substantial” as making more than $1,130 ($1,820 if you’re blind) a month.  If you make less than that amount per month, you will continue to be eligible for SSI.

To get under that threshold amount of income, Social Security allows you to deduct work expenses from monthly income.  So for example, the cost of taking a taxi to work because one’s disability prevents them from taking public transportation is deductible.  Counseling services, the cost of a job coach, and the cost of a wheelchair are also deductible, and if you use something like that to help you with your work, you can take that off of the income you make.  Within 5 years of SSI being stopped, no matter where you are in the 36 month period, full benefits can also be restarted without making another application to the SSA if it is shown that the disability has prevented the person from continuing to work.

If you are ready to get off of SSI and come back into the workplace, do not fear losing your benefits.  The program the SSA has put into place will allow you to get off your feet, while allowing you to go back to receiving full benefits should your disability prevent you from working at all.  The 9 month trial period allows you to establish yourself, and then you can still restart benefits if cut off if your income slips below $1,130 or your disability prevents you from working.  So go out there and work and overcome your disability, knowing that a safety net exists should you not be able to continue to work.

To discuss your NJ Special Needs matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.