Can I make money while keeping my disability benefits?
December 8, 2020 10:26 PM   Subscribe

I live on social security disability and I can't make more than a hundred or so dollars a month in my state or else I'll lose my benefits. I am genuinely disabled but I'm still capable of learning how to do things to make money like forex trading or starting an online business and could definitely use more than I get each month from social security (social security disability barely covers my living expenses and I live very humbly). So my question is: is there a way for me to make more than a few hundred dollars a month while keeping my disability benefits?
posted by defmute to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Social Security has a "ticket to work" program (they've some details in this pdf) under which there are higher income limits but only for certain periods of time. I'm not sure how that squares against what your state is telling you.
posted by bixfrankonis at 10:59 PM on December 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am not sure how the federal or your state government defines income in your case, but trading forex or any number of things you can trade is generally either short-term or long-term capital gains. It is not W-2 income or subject to social security tax.
posted by AugustWest at 2:19 AM on December 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Many of the answers to your previous question should help, but I'm not sure what you're referring to by "more than a hundred or so dollars a month." Generally, the threshold for Social Security Disability Insurance is the Substantial Gainful Activity threshold, which is $1,310 monthly for 2021. And there are many exceptions which allow you to have higher income than even that threshold for many months; see this site for the many details. Are you perhaps receiving Supplemental Security Income on the basis of disability?

Any income from work is treated the same, whether it's online or in person. Investment income is different, but that's basically gambling, so not a reliable source of income.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:08 AM on December 9, 2020

This may not be a totally ethical suggestion or something that you want to do, but.. selling plasma. Pretty sure it doesn't count as income.
posted by foxonisland at 9:21 AM on December 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Unofficially, work under the table. Bookkeeping, maybe. It is indecent that people with disabilities are expected to live on a pittance.
posted by theora55 at 2:46 PM on December 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Nolo press says that the income exclusion for SSI is $783 per month but there are ways that you can exclude half your income up to a total of $1650 per month. So it looks like you can legally earn a few hundred without jeapodizing your status. However, this is super important not to mess up so I would research it on the SS website before taking any action.

Edit to add: it looks like what happens is your benefit is reduced by half of what you earn. So if your benefit is $783, each dollar you earn after the first $65 reduces your benefit by 50 cents. Just to say this is complicated....
posted by metahawk at 5:04 PM on December 9, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. After reading through everyone's answers I'm going focus mainly on making money under the table. I can't believe I didn't think of that as an option (!). Anyway, thanks again, everyone.
posted by defmute at 8:14 PM on December 9, 2020

There are differences between how income is calculated for SSDI and SSI, In general SSDI has better paths and work allowances. SSI is far stricter in that essentially over the first small amount you make (I can't remember how much) above says 65.00 but I didn't look it up to confirm you lose HALF your benefit. So of you work and make 400 dollars in a month, you lose 200 in benefits. Keeping up with this is a beautcratic nightmare, and leads to overpayments which means they will withhold parts of the SSI until you are deemed to have been paid the right amount. You can talk to a local case worker about this, but it becomes extremely difficult to do right.

Be warned, investments are seen as assets, and on SSI having more than 2000 dollars in assets will suspend your benefits until you spend down those assets. I'm not sure how forex falls into that, or the amounts you would be trading. I would definately speak to a lawyer in regards to that sort of stuff (most states have free consultations for these types of issues somewhere) to get guidance. If your on SSDI those strict asset limits don't apply and you have more room.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:34 PM on December 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Only earned income, money made from working, is limited for those on SSDI. And there is no asset limit for SSDI.

I'm troubled that someone suggested, and you decided on, social security fraud. That's a Very Bad Idea.
posted by megatherium at 1:59 PM on December 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

If you can develop the skill, I knew someone who made a living, as in paying shared rent, expenses, food, etc., by doing custom knitting. She worked with a yarn store. Doing it through etsy was too remote, some personal contacts improved communication and reduced complaints. She was a good, fast knitter. with a netflix account. Sewing/ alterations is a good cash opportunity. Pet sitting.

Ebay, etsy, etc., will want a soc. sec. # to report payments to the IRS. With some ebay sales, you can say it's stuff you had, but that isn't audit proof.

Yeah, lying to Soc. Sec. is bad. Be cautious, because you can lose the benefit. But my friend's been through the issues, and the restrictions have been severe to the point of a friend not being able to live decently and follow the rules as interpreted by the local office.
posted by theora55 at 3:32 PM on December 11, 2020

Ooooh, working under the table may be a short-term boon but Social Security will eventually get wise and then you are looking at FRAUD charges, like federal charges with jail time and having to repay your benefits. Please reconsider this option.

I would also look into again the interpretation that you are allowed to make only a few hundred dollars per month. And maybe consider a trial work period - it could allow you to earn more with SSA's blessing.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 11:54 AM on December 12, 2020

I know I’m late to the party but I’d suggest checking out your states cottage food laws. The laws in my state allow folks to sell things like homegrown veggies, plants, and some homemade foods without having to report the income (up to a certain amount, of course, but IIRC it was a good amount of cash). I realized this while working at a non-profit that served disabled folks who faced the same issue you’ve detailed and we were able to get them all involved making some extra money this way (either through our greenhouse, market farm, or community kitchen) without it impacting their benefits.
posted by youandiandaflame at 7:41 PM on December 12, 2020

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