Many workers with disabilities rely on Social Security payments and Medicaid along with their jobs to cover the costs of living, along with other assistance programs. Unfortunately, as wages increase, disabled workers meet the maximum amount of earnings permissible before they disqualify for benefits, which often means they are forced to work fewer hours.

Here’s what individuals who have disabilities should know about the SSD income vs. benefits balance and how to ensure their employment doesn’t conflict with their ability to receive benefits.

Income and the Ability to Receive Benefits

One of the biggest challenges that workers with disabilities face is an earnings ceiling that dictates whether or not they can receive disability benefits. If a worker earns too much, he or she will disqualify for Medicaid, Social Security Insurance, and other benefits that the government may provide, such as food stamps and subsidized housing.

If employees earn more money to the point where they risk losing their benefits, employers may need to reduce their work hours, which could place those workers near the poverty line.

The amount of benefits that workers with disabilities can receive depends on requirements that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has in place. Benefits will depend on whether an employee receives Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits, which depend on how much the worker earned before the disability, or Social Security Insurance (SSI) benefits, which are provided in the form of monthly payments for individuals with serious disabilities. SSI payments may cover chronic physical or mental illness along with severe developmental or intellectual disabilities that render individuals unable to work without aid. SSI payments are intended to pay for both food and rent, but in many cases, this amount doesn’t cover rent.

SSDI and SSI payments both have maximum income levels in place for recipients, which means that if they work more than they need to in order and exceed maximum income levels, they will either receive much smaller payments or stop receiving them entirely. Other payments, such as Medicaid, also have caps on earnings.

Subsequently, people with disabilities may feel that they are unable to earn more money without the risk of losing their benefits, which keeps their situations difficult. 

While the fear of losing benefits makes many workers afraid to work more or earn higher wages, the SSA offers some guidance for workers to help maintain self-sufficiency. Understanding the limitations and abilities as a worker with a disability can help avoid potential issues pertaining to the income vs. benefits balance.