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Disability recipients around the country are confused about their ability to work while receiving their benefits. The short answer is that you can work. Before you start looking for a job, though, you need to understand the limits.

How much you can work depends on your social security program

You can work while on disability, but the guidelines are not so black and white. It depends on the social security program you are on. SSI, or social security income, is a federal monthly stipend paid to both elderly people and the disabled. Most of those that receive this stipend are categorized as people who have not paid Social Security taxes from jobs. As such, they receive up to $771 — sometimes more if their state chooses to add to it.

Recipients of SSI are allowed to work while receiving their benefits as long as their income does not top $771 per month. However, those benefits begin to decrease after the first $85 of each month. This does not just include income through employment, either. Any money they receive is factored in.

SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, is for those who are disabled and have paid Social Security taxes from employment. SSDI recipients are able to earn up to $1,220 per month or $2040 for the blind, and they can have additional assets and income outside of their employment.

Work without losing benefits

The truth is that Social Security alone is generally not enough to take care of oneself, so there needs to be some form of additional income. If you need to supplement your income, the SSA will not punish you for that. However, trying to do so without informing them might get you into trouble.

The safest thing to do is work with the Social Security Administration if you need to find a job. They have two programs for those capable of working some: Plan to Achieve Self-Support, or PASS, and Ticket to Work. PASS is available only to SSI recipients. They set goals to become self-sufficient by returning to school, opening a business, taking up a trade, or something similar.

The SSA has to approve the plan, but if the plan can help you to support yourself, your likelihood for approval is high. If it is approved, any money or assets that are related to fulfilling those goals do not count as income. During this time, SSI recipients can make a great deal more money without losing benefits.

Ticket, the other work-incentive program, is available to SSI and SSDI recipients. As long as the participants are doing well in the program, they are exempt from medical check-ins and do not need to worry about losing their benefits. It is basically a way to protect yourself while you try to work.

SSDI recipients that are involved in Ticket have a little more leeway, however. They have nine months to attempt to work. If they find that they cannot, there are no consequences. It helps the disabled try to ease back into work and determine if their medical issues will continue to interfere with working.

If possible, the recipient continues to work. If the medical issues are too tough to work with, they can go right back home. That time frame was protected, so their benefits were not taken away. Participating in one of these programs is the safest way to attempt to work while receiving benefits as you are working directly with the SSA.

Do not let the fear of losing your disability benefits keep you from making the income you need. Instead, speak with an SSA representative and let them help you set a path that will improve your life.