The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability and retirement benefits to individuals who qualify to receive them based on their work records. While the SSA does not penalize people who continue to work while receiving retirement benefits, it does reduce a person's payments if he earns above a certain amount of income before reaching his full retirement age. The SSA continues to pay someone receiving disability payments during his trial work period and extended period of eligibility until he achieves and maintains a minimum amount of earned income.
Before Full Retirement Age
The SSA identifies 65 as the full retirement age for people born before 1938. For people born in 1938 or later, the SSA increases its definition of full retirement age in increments up to age 67. For people born in or after 1960, the SSA cites 67 as their full retirement age. Collecting benefits before attaining full retirement age reduces the amount of money the retiree receives from the SSA. The SSA also limits the amount of money a person collecting Social Security before reaching his full retirement age may make before suffering a further reduction of his retirement benefits to $14,160 in 2011. A person experiences a $1 reduction in his retirement benefit for every $2 he earns above the SSA's limit.
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At Full Retirement Age
In 2011, the SSA limits the amount of money a person may earn during the year in which he reaches full retirement age without reducing his Social Security retirement benefit to $37,680. A retiree has until the month of his birthday to earn up to the SSA's limit. For every $3 earned above $37,680 during the months preceding the one in which the person reaches his full retirement age, the SSA reduces his benefits by $1.
After Full Retirement Age
As of 2011, the SSA does not reduce retirement benefits to people continuing to work beyond their full retirement age, regardless of their earned income levels.
Trial Work Period
During a person's trial work period, the SSA continues to pay full disability benefits to a person attempting to re-enter the workforce, regardless of how much the recipient earns. Once a person earns a minimum of $720 for nine months during a five-year period, his trial work period ends.
Extended Period of Eligibility
During a person's three-year extended period of eligibility, the SSA monitors the amount he earns each month to determine whether disability benefits will continue. For the months within the three-year constraint during which a person fails to earn a minimum amount, the SSA pays a recipient his full disability benefit. In 2011, the SSA suspends disability benefits for the months during which a disabled person earns a minimum of $1,000. If a blind person earns more than $1,640 in a month included in his extended period of eligibility, the SSA withholds his benefit payment for that month.