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Howard Kossover: SSA earnings test doesn’t apply to disability benefits

Q: Last year I started Social Security retirement. As it turned out, I did not continue to work part-time as originally planned. Do I need to report that my earnings were less than expected for last year?

A: If you received Social Security retirement or survivors benefits and were younger than full retirement age (FRA) for at least part of last year, report your 2012 employment earnings if your estimated or actual earnings exceeded 2012 earnings test amounts for your age.

Earnings amounts for 2012 are in Social Security publication 05-10077, “What you need to know when you get retirement or survivors benefits” online at or available from any SSA office.

Earnings for the annual earnings test include your gross wages from employment and net-income from self-employment.

Your estimated earnings amount for a year is used to pay benefits during that year. If your 2012 estimate was high, perhaps you are due Social Security funds withheld based on that estimate. If your estimate was low, perhaps you need to return funds.

Working in 2013? Annual earnings test amounts for 2013 are at Provide an estimated earnings amount to Social Security if receiving SSA retirement or survivors benefits, younger than full retirement age for at least part of 2013, and working.

This estimate will help

keep your benefit amount accurate. Your estimate can be changed during the year as needed.

The earnings test does not apply if you receive benefits because you have a disability.

In this case, report starting or ending work to Social Security at the time.

Did you know? There is no charge for Social Security number activity, whether a new number, changing your name, or replacing a lost card. Instructions and a SSN application are at or directly at

For security of your personal information, the SSN application cannot be submitted online but you can download and print it. Bring or mail the completed application and required supporting documents to Social Security. Your documents are returned.

Make sure you are at the official Social Security website, Look for .gov (government).

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at