How long must I not have worked before I can apply for disability?
The simple answer to this is that you do not have to be off work to file for disability. Of course, there is a caveat to this statement. The caveat is that while you are allowed to perform some work your earnings must be under the SGA monthly earnings limit if you wish to file for Social Security Disability.
What is the SGA monthly earnings limit? SGA stands for substantial gainful activity. If your work activity is at this level, you will not be considered disabled by Social Security. What is the SGA level of earnings? It tends to change yearly and to see the current amount
Social Security understands that disability applicants are no different from other people in that they have bills to pay, so they allow some work activity. Logically, a person alleging disability cannot be earning as much as a non-disabled person.
Social Security's definition of disability states that you must have a severe medically determinable impairment that has prevented SGA for twelve months or you expect that will prevent SGA for twelve months.
Work and severity of impairment are equal parts of the disability equation for Social Security. A person could have a terminal condition and still be denied for the performance of SGA.
In conclusion, you do not have to be off work to file a claim for disability, but you must not be performing SGA. If you are disabled you can file for disability if you are earning under SGA or the day your stop working.
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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