Can you work and still draw Social Security disability benefits? The short answer is “No.” Of course there are qualifications to that “No,” but those qualifications are narrow and they are ultimately intended to ask the simple question — Are you physically and mentally able to work hard enough to make a minimal living? The SGA amount (the amount of earnings that serves as the “rule of thumb” amount for the Social Security Administration) is $1010 per month for 2012. That’s the approximate equivalent of being able to work 30 hours a week at a minimum wage job, but keep in mind that if you can work 12 to 15 hours a week at a $20-per-hour job, you’re working at SGA. You will be disqualified for disability benefits at the first step of the five-step analysis.
Remember that the question at the first step of the five-step analysis is not about how much you MAY work and still draw disability benefits. The question is about how much you CAN, or are able to, work. The difference between Social Security retirement income and Social Security disability income may be part of the confusion. If you decide to take early retirement, then at the age of 62, you can start drawing a retirement income benefit. Your benefits will be reduced from the full amount that you would draw if you waited until you reached full retirement age — originally 65 but increasing to 67 for people born after 1960. If you take early retirement at 62 and keep working, there is monthly earnings amount, that is always subject to change, that marks a threshold beyond which your retirement income gets reduced even further. If you wait until you reach full retirement age to retire, then there is no limit on how much you can earn and continue to draw your full benefit.
The question for people taking early retirement who continue to work is how much MAY they make without suffering benefit reduction. If you want to make sure your Social Security early retirement benefits are not impacted, you can adjust your work hours to make sure your monthly income is below the threshold amount that causes income benefit reduction. It’s the opposite for people drawing Social Security disability benefits.
Again, the question for you, if you are drawing disability benefits is how much you are able to make. If you’re drawing, or want to draw, disability benefits and you are still working, but you’re working just a few hours a week and getting paid less than the SGA threshold amount, the question is still asked, If your boss offered to adjust your work hours to let you draw more than $1010 a month, would you be able to do it. If the answer to that question is yes, then you are not disabled under the Social Security Administrations rules.