The federal government has two programs that provide cash payments to people who are disabled: Supplemental Security income (SSI) and Social Security disability (SSD), Even though they are both often referred to as “disability,” SSI and SSD are two different programs. SSD is for people who have a qualifying work history of paying taxes into the Social Security system for many years. SSI is for people with limited income and assets, who didn’t work enough to qualify for SSDI.
To be eligible for SSI, your medical condition must be serious enough to prevent you from doing a substantial amount of work for at least 12 months (or be expected to result in your death).
Social Security defines what is a substantial amount of work through the concept of "substantial gainful activity" (SGA). For 2016, the SGA level is defined as earning $1,130 a month from working ($1,820 for legally blind folks). There are different rules for those who are self-employed.
If you are working above the SGA level when you apply, you don't meet the definition of disabled and so cannot get benefits.
In addition to being found disabled, you must meet Social Security's income and resource tests to receive SSI.
Income. In order to qualify for SSI benefits, your countable income cannot exceed the federal benefit rate (FBR). The FBR for a single person in 2016 is $733. The FBR for couples is $1,100.
Your countable income includes money you are paid for working, the value of free food or shelter, and money from other sources such as your spouse, family, veterans benefits, or unemployment. (Only a portion of your spouse’s income, however, is attributed to you.)
There are also some types of income that the SSA doesn’t consider when determining your countable income. Here are some examples: