Topic Categories:

Social Security Disability Definitions

Social Security Disability and SSI Overview

The Requirements for Disability

Social Security Disability and SSI Applications

Tips and Advice for Disability Claims

How long does Disability take?

Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial

Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

Social Security Disability and SSI Appeals

Social Security Mental Disability Benefits

Disability Benefits offered through Social Security

Benefits through SSI disability

Disability Benefits for Children

Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify

Social Security Disability and Working

Winning your Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Back Pay Benefits

Social Security Disability SSI Awards and Award Notices

Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney

Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions

What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?

Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence

Filing for Disability Benefits

Eligibility for Disability Benefits

SSDRC authored by

Ask a question, get an answer

Can You Work While You Appeal Your Social Security Disability Decision?

Most people think that when an individual files an application for Social Security disability they cannot be working; however this is not true (though it is true that the ability to work plays an important rule in all disability determinations including disability appeals).

The definition of disability for the Social Security Administration, in terms of how it relates to work activity, is as follows: any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has prevented an individual from performing substantial gainful activity (basically, meaning work activity that pays a livable wage) for twelve continuous months, or which is expected to prevent them from performing substantial gainful activity for twelve months.

Notice that the definition states substantial gainful activity, not work. Substantial gainful activity is a monthly earnings limit that Social Security sets each year as an amount of earnings that it considers being self-supporting.

Consequently, if an individual is working, but is earning under the SGA monthly earnings limit, it will not cause their initial disability claim, or their appeal, to be denied. Likewise, it will not negatively affect an individual who is already receiving SSD or SSI disability benefits.

Social Security must be notified of any work activity so that the work activity can be evaluated to make sure that the disability claimant is not exceeding the SGA limit. There are certain exceptions to the concrete SGA monthly limit.

For example, some individuals are earning over the monthly earnings amount but their employer is subsidizing their employment by giving special consideration that allows them to maintain their employment. Special considerations might be more rest periods, more time off, or even help with their job duties.

If an employer is subsidizing a claimants work, they are asked by Social Security to complete a form indicating what the considerations are, and the worth of the disability applicant's work when compared to non-disabled employees. If their work is worth fifty percent of what they are earning, their earnings will only be counted as fifty percent of the reported monthly earnings, and this may keep the disability claimant under the SGA earnings limit.

If a disability claimant's case is approved and they have worked while their disability claim or appeals were being evaluated, their work may counted as some of their trial work months (Trial work months are months in which a person may attempt a return to work. Disability benefit recipients get nine trial work months and during these months they may earn over the SGA limit without it negatively impacting their benefits).

Disability claimants and disability beneficiaries should always be very careful about work activity. If a disability claimant wins their disability on appeal, their disability case may be reopened and denied if they have performed SGA-level work activty during the five month waiting period or during the twelve months following their disability onset (when they state they became unable to work at a substantial and gainful level due to their impairment).

It is imperative that a disability claimant or disability beneficiary keep track of their earnings so that they remain eligible for disability benefits.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria