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SSD SSI Definitions

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Can I work without it affecting my social security disability or SSI?

If you have been approved to receive disability benefits under the social security disability or SSI disability program, you need to be very careful about any work activity you may engage in. Work activity can potentially trigger a review of your case. This is even more so for claimants who have been approved for disability on the basis of a mental impairment.

Having said that, the social security administration does have provisions for work activity even for individuals who have been found to meet the SSA definition of disability. In this article, we'll define certain key concepts that apply to work activity and social security.

1. Unsuccessful work attempt - Many individuals attempt to go back into the workforce at some point after being awarded disability benefits. In some cases, this is because the person has found it necessary to supplement their disability benefits in order to meet their living expenses. In other cases, it is because the person has a genuine desire to return to work or re-enter their profession for the purpose of advancement.

Due to their condition, or various conditions, of course, many individuals who attempt to work find that they cannot sustain their work activity. As a recognition of this reality, social security considers a UWA, or unsuccessful work attempt, as an attempt at working that does not last 90 days or longer. In other words, if you receive disability and re-enter the workforce, but do not make it past 90 days on the job, the attempt will not count against you.

2. SGA - SGA stands for substantial gainful activity. SGA is a gross monthly earnings amount. If a claimant works and their earnings do not match or exceed this amount, then it will not affect their case. If, however, they work and earn at least this amount, it may negatively affect their case depending on whether or not they have exhausted their trial work months. To see the current SGA limit: Substantial gainful activity limit.

3. Trial Work Months - Individuals who are approved to receive disability benefits are given the opportunity to try working again without automatically sacrificing their disability benefits. As previously mentioned, attempts to work that do not last 90 days may be classified as unsuccessful.

Social security also allows claimant a total of nine trial work months in which their earnings may match or exceed the limits for SGA work activity. If an individual works and earns at least the SGA earnings limit for nine months within a 36 month rolling period (in other words, these nine months do not have to be consecutive), then in the 10th month of earning at least the SGA income limit, their disability benefits will be stopped.

4. Overpayments - Overpayments generally occur as a result of work activity, often work activity that is not reported. Overpayments can result in benefits being stopped and huge debts to the social security administration. In certain cases, overpayments can be waived if the social security office finds that the individual is not at fault. If you are assessed with an overpayment, you may wish to request a continuation of benefits while you appeal the assessment.

However, if you are found to owe the original overpayment you will also owe any additional money that you received while you tried to fight the overpayment assessment. Overpayment situations can usually be avoided by reporting work activity as soon as possible.

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

Related pages:

Are You Allowed to Work While Receiving Social Security Disability or SSI?
What is an unsuccessful work attempt?
If my medical condition keeps me from working will I get Social Security disability?
Canít Work In My Old Job, How Does Social Security Disability Consider This?
Social Security Disability And Trial Work Months: You are allowed to Work
Medical Disability - How does Social Security view your work and medical records
Is there a Maximum I can Work and Make if I am on SSD or SSI Disability Benefits?
Working while getting Disability - Is it Possible?
Can You Work While You Appeal Your Social Security Disability Decision?
How long do you have To Be Out Of Work Before You Get Social Security Disability (SSD)?
Can I work without it affecting my social security disability or SSI?
What happens if you are working when you file for disability or work after you apply for disability?
Will working part-time affect my SSD?
Working while on Social Security Disability and Not Reporting
What is SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity)?
If I Apply For Disability And Go Back To Work, Do I Need To Report This?
Are you allowed to work at all if you get Social Security disability or SSI?

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