Does social security care if you are working when you are applying for disability?

It's very typical for social security representatives and even employees of the social security adminstration to respond to this question by stating that, no, an individual who is filing for disability cannot be working when they apply. However, that answer is only partially correct at best. In literal terms, it is quite wrong.

Can you work and apply for disability? Yes, as long as your earnings are not in excess of the earnings limit, otherwise known as the substantial gainful activity amount, or SGA amount. As long as a person's earnings are less than this amount, they can file a claim for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability or SSI disability program.

In fact, an individual who has already been approved for SSD or SSI disability benefits can also work, as long as their gross monthly earnings are less than the SGA amount that is in effect for a given year.

What happens if you apply for disability at a social security office and you have earnings in excess of the SGA limit? Even if an application is technically taken, it will not be processed. That is, it will not be assigned to a disability examiner who would ordinarily request medical records and evaluate them.

What happens if you are receiving disability benefits and you have earnings in excess of the SGA limit? It may cause you to go through what are known as your trial work months and it may trigger a work review of your claim.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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