2021 Income Limits for Disability Claimants

Hundreds dollars paper money in a wallet

In 2021, a person is determined to be engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) if he or she is earning more than $1,310 monthly if non-blind or $2,190 if blind. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits will be stopped if a claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity, unless he or she is participating in one of the Social Security Administration’s work incentives and trial work periods.

Substantial Gainful Activity for 2021

Every year, the SGA limits are changed to keep up with the changes to the national average wage index. The monthly earnings taken to be SGA depend on the nature of an individual’s disability. A higher monthly SGA amount is specified for statutory blind people in the Social Security Act. Federal regulations provide a lower amount for individuals who are not blind.

The monthly SGA amount for non-blind individuals is $1,310. This SGA amount applies to both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and SSDI benefits. For people who are statutorily blind, the SGA amount is $2,190. This SGA does not apply to SSI benefits. 

A person whose income exceeds these caps cannot receive disability benefits.


SSA’s work incentives and trial work periods are aimed at helping beneficiaries make the transition to the workforce while still collecting their benefits. Some incentives are specifically for SSI or SSDI recipients, while others are offered to both types of recipients. Ticket to Work is one such program. It offers people receiving SSI and SSDI benefits services like:

  • Job training
  • Referrals
  • Free vocational rehabilitation
  • Other employment support

The services are meant to assist the individuals in becoming self-supporting. Ticket to Work, just like other SSA work incentives, waives SGA limits temporarily. One can therefore receive disability benefits while he or she engages in trial work with participating employers. Disability benefits are taken away if a recipient gets employed through the program. The disability payments resume if a person has to stop working due to worsening of his or her medical condition.

SSDI recipients are also entitled to a trial work period of nine months, which does not have to be consecutive. The months can spread out over a period of five years. One can still get his or her full disability benefits during these months regardless of how much he or she earns. For 2021, the SSA considers a month when a beneficiary’s income exceeds $940 a trial work month. Disability attorneys help people gain more understanding of how programs and SSA updates affect their benefits.

Social Security Disability

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