Working while receiving Social Security Benefits

Types of Benefits

Today’s Social Security provides retirement benefits, disability benefits, Survivor’s benefits, and supplemental security income.

  • Retirement benefits are paid to a worker based on the amount of funds they paid into the system through their social security taxes and if they have enough work credits.  You must have 40 work credits or 10 years of work to eligible for benefits.
  • Disability benefits are paid to persons unable to work due to a medical condition expected to last at least twelve consecutive months or result in death. 
  • Survivor’s benefits are paid to the surviving spouse or children of a deceased worker.  The amount a survivor receives is based on the average Lifetime Earnings of the deceased Wage Earner, the higher the earnings, the higher the benefit amount to the survivors.  Survivors’ benefits can be larger than individual life insurance.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) makes payments to people who have a limited prior work history and have limited resources, blind, disabled, or 65 and over.  Blind and disabled children can also receive SSI benefits.

Working affects each of these benefit programs in different ways.

Retirement and Survivors Benefits

Working affects retirement and survivors benefits in the same way.  You can work and receive benefits under these programs.  Your age at the time you are receiving benefits determines how working affects the amount of benefits you receive.

  • Born between January 2, 1943 and January 2, 1955 – Your retirement age is 66.  If you work at Full Retirement Age or older, you can make any amount of money without affecting the amount of retirement or survivor’s benefits you receive.
  • If you are younger than 66 in 2009, you can earn $14,160 before Social Security begins to reduce your benefits.  Social Security will deduct $1 (from your retirement or survivor’s benefits) from every $2 you earn above $14,160.
  • There is a special rule that applies if you retire at age 66 because of employment income, you may have received before retirement and if you take a part-time job that pays less in that same year.

Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits

There are special rules that apply to working and receiving Social Security disability and ssi Benefits.  It may be possible to receive Social Security benefits while attempting to return to work.  Earning too much income can trigger the loss of benefits because Social Security can find that you are no longer disabled because of the income you have earned.

Penalties for Overpayments

Any income you receive should be reported to Social Security.  There are penalties for overpayment of benefits.  The penalties range from a reduction in the amount of your monthly benefit to pay back the overpayment to a complete loss of benefits under the SSDI and SSI programs.

Do you need a Lawyer?

You should contact a competent attorney if you have been denied benefits by the Administration.  There are time limits within which a claimant must appeal, so it is essential to contact an attorney as soon as possible.


Social Security is a highly formalized program, with specialized rules regarding eligibility, payment and disqualification.  Contacting a lawyer is essential to protect your rights and receive the benefits you deserve.

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