Social Security Disability Insurance can provide benefits for people who are no longer able to work because of illness, injury or other conditions. But, before you can collect these benefits, you must go through a fairly complex process of showing that you meet the eligibility requirements. And you may have to prove that you remain eligible months and years later if you want to continue receiving the benefits.
One important factor in maintaining eligibility has to do with your earned income, or what the Social Security Administration calls “substantial gainful activity.”
Substantial gainful activity
SSDI benefits are for people whose disabilities make them unable to work to earn a living. Therefore, there is a limit on how much income a person can earn before they become ineligible for SSDI benefits.
Many SSDI benefits recipients are permanently disabled, but others recover and begin working again. Sometimes this means taking a part time job, or working at a less demanding job than they had before they became disabled, and sometimes it means returning to full-time work. However, in the Social Security Administration’s view, if a person is well enough to engage in substantial gainful activity, the SSA considers them no longer eligible for SSDI benefits.
The SSA sets an income limit for substantial gainful activity and changes it every year in order to keep up with the cost of living. In 2024, the limit for most people is now $1,550 a month, up from 2023’s limit of $1,470 per month.
The limit is higher for those who are legally blind. A blind person can earn up to $2,590 per month in 2024 without losing eligibility.