SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
Social Security Disability and SSI Questions and Answers
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
More questions about SSD and SSI
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
Can You Work While You Appeal Your Social Security Disability Decision?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
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: SSDRC, or the Social Security Disability Questions page