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How Much Household Income Can I Have and Still File for Social Security

If you suffer a disability in the state of Arkansas, you may qualify for two different types of social security disability: Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Social Security Income. These two programs are not quite the same, and both treat household income differently. Understanding these differences can be beneficial when trying to collect all of the benefits you’re entitled to.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an entitlement program and is available to disabled individuals who have paid into the Social Security system for at least ten years. The payment you receive is based on the amount of your lifetime earnings before you became disabled. You must also have a qualifying disability. In Arkansas, the average SSDI monthly payout is $1,234 in 2019.

Social Security Income is different because it’s a “needs-based” program. In order to qualify for this disability program, you must have limited assets and income. Social Security Income requires recipients to have less than $2,000 in assets for a single person and $3,000 for a couple. However, the income limit is a bit more complicated and is based on countable income.



SSDI Income Limits

SSDI doesn’t put limits on assets or unearned income from you or your spouse. As long as you’ve paid into the Social Security system for at least ten years and have a qualifying disability, you are eligible for these benefits. However, it does put a limit on the amount of income you are able to earn through work-related activities.

In order to collect disability benefits, you must be disabled and unable to work. If you are working, even a little, your earned income may be high enough to qualify as engaging in “substantial gainful activity.” Those individuals who are considered independent enough to earn a living or who earn more than the income limit will be unable to collect disability benefits through either SSDI or SSI.

Household Income is Different than Earned Income

What is Federal Benefit RateIn Social Security Disability, there is a difference between household income and your own income, and both affect your access to disability benefits in different ways.

Let’s first address household income. Your household income can affect your eligibility for SSI. To be eligible for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), your income cannot exceed a certain level. This income limit is based on the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) and changes annually with the cost-of-living-adjustment.

For 2018, the FBR is $735 per month for individuals and $1,100 for couples.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

In order to be found disabled, you cannot be engaged in what the Social Security Administration (SSA) terms “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). A person who is working and earning over a certain monthly amount is considered to be engaging in substantial gainful activity and is not considered disabled.

For statutorily blind individuals, SGA for 2019 is $2,040. For non-blind individuals, the SGA amount for 2016 is $1,220. If your monthly income is close to this amount or slightly over, please call Rainwater, Holt & Sexton as we may still be able to help you.

Unearned Income Limits

If you are collecting SSDI, the SSA does not put a limit on the amount of unearned income you are receiving through your spouse’s income, investments, or interests. As such, a disabled individual may be married and benefiting from their spouse’s income, collecting interest or income from investments, and still receive all of the SSDI benefits they’re entitled to.

The SSI program, however, does put a limit on the amount of unearned income or assets a disabled individual is able to receive. Since the SSI program is a “needs-based” program, eligible individuals must have limited assets and income – both earned and unearned. However, SSI calculates income differently than SSDI does.

Some assets and interest received may count toward your monthly total, while others may not. Situations vary greatly, and even if you believe you receive too much income or too many assets to qualify, this may not be the case. It is always best to speak to an experienced and skilled SSDI lawyer at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton to have the best chance of collecting the benefits to which you are entitled.

Trial Work Period

Some people receiving SSDI or SSI may wish to return to work in a limited or reduced capacity. Unfortunately, the fear of losing their Social Security Disability benefits is often enough to keep them from trying. Fortunately, the SSA provides a trial work period for disabled workers who wish to try to return to work. During this temporary trial period, disabled workers are allowed to earn an unlimited amount of income and still receive full benefits without the risk of losing those benefits during the trial period.

Currently, the trial work period gives disabled workers nine months out of a 60-month period to try working. If someone receiving SSDI makes more than $880 in a month, it’s considered a trial work month. When that recipient has worked for nine months out of a five-year period, the SSA will evaluate their case to determine if their employment has reached SGA limits. If it has, then their disability benefits will be extended for three remaining months before being terminated.

We’re There When You Need Us

Every disability claim is different. If you are disabled and seeking to collect disability benefits, you may benefit greatly from speaking to an experienced and skilled Arkansas SSDI lawyer. At Rainwater, Holt, & Sexton, our SSDI attorneys will advocate for your future and will protect you every step of the way.


We Can Help You File Your Claim

If you need to apply for social security disability in Arkansas, it is important to speak with an experienced SSD lawyer immediately. We can help you file the disability claims you need and prevent mistakes from occurring that could jeopardize your claim. With seven office locations in Arkansas and Tennessee – Little Rock, Springdale, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant, Jacksonville, and Memphis—our SSD lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you need us.

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