When individuals are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income payments, I often receive the question, “How much money can I earn and still apply for disability benefits?” I normally advise my clients to not worry about earnings limits, but to instead earn as much as they can from performing work. I have found that individuals that intentionally limit their earnings in order to continue to potentially qualify for disability benefits, often hurt their claims based on their work attempts.
When applying for Social Security Disability, the Social Security Administration must determine the limitations that an individual experiences because of their medical impairments, and how those limitations impact their ability to work. The majority of individuals that apply for Disability Benefits are ultimately denied benefits. In 2008, nearly 2 1/2 million initial applications for Social Security Disability Benefits/SSI were filed. If you add up the individuals that were approved at all levels of the disability determination process in 2008, only about 1.3 million people were actually approved for benefits. This means that only about 35% of people that applied for benefits were ultimately approved.
Based on the difficulty of being approved for benefits, I always encourage my clients to return to work if that it is a possibility.