Ask Kim: Earnings Test for Disability Benefits

By Kimberly Lankford, Kiplinger's Personal Finance | July 3rd, 2019

Financial guidance for your financial life


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Q: Is there an earnings test if you receive Social Security disability, like there is if you’re below full retirement age and take Social Security retirement benefits?

A: People receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) have a different earnings test, called “Substantial Gainful Activity.” Your benefits could stop if you earn more than the SGA limits, which are gross wages in 2019 of $1,220 per month (or $2,040 if blind).

“However, there are many work incentives in place to assist a person returning to work without fear of losing his or her benefits,” says Darren Lutz of the Social Security Administration.

For example, there are no earnings limits during a nine-month trial work period, followed by a 36-month extended period of eligibility, when benefits may be suspended for going over the SGA limits but not terminated. If you’re unable to earn the SGA amount during that time, you can start receiving benefits again without doing a new application. For more information, see “Working While Disabled” at www.ssa.gov.

Q: I’d like to buy flood insurance now that we’re getting to the height of hurricane season, but I understand that the National Flood Insurance Program has a 30-day waiting period. Is there a policy with a shorter waiting period?

A: Flood insurance sold by private insurers generally has a shorter waiting period and higher coverage limits, and may cost less than the federal program. Many insurers have waiting periods of 10 days or less, although they may not issue new policies if a storm is on the way, says John Austin Tatum, an insurance agent in Abilene, Tex. Compare the cost of several private flood policies with the NFIP coverage. “They all have different pricing points and sweet spots,” says Tatum.

Private flood insurers now account for 17 percent of flood premiums nationwide, but some states have more options than others. The biggest markets are in California, Florida, New York and Texas, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Your homeowners insurance agent may sell flood coverage, or find an independent agent at www.trustedchoice.com. Your state insurance department may have a list of private flood insurers (see www.naic.org/map for links). Go to www.floodsmart.gov for NFIP information.


Kimberly Lankford is a contributing editor to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to moneypower@kiplinger.com. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.

(c) 2019 Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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