Applying for disability while you work full time
The definition of Social Security states that an individual must have been unable to perform SGA for twelve months, or that they expect that they will not be able to perform SGA for twelve months due to their medically determinable mental or physical disabling condition. The inability to perform SGA is an essential part of Social Security Disability.
What do we mean by SGA? SGA stands for substantial gainful activity. It refers to all work activity for which a person is earning at least a certain amount of gross earned income per month. It is basically an income limit and if a person is working and earning at least this amount, then they are not considered disabled by Social Security. That really means, contrary to a lot of misunderstanding by many, that the following is true:
One: A person can be working when they file for disability benefits under SSD or SSI. Two: A person can be receiving disability and working.
What a person cannot do is work and earn more than the SGA limit. So, a person who is applying for disability or getting disability benefits, and who works, needs to be very careful about their earnings.
To reiterate, if you are working full time, you can certainly apply for Social Security Disability; however, your disability claim will likely be denied due to the performance of SGA.
The only potential exclusion to this rule would be if you are being subsidized by your employer. If your employer is allowing you more breaks, more absences, or perhaps letting you have lower production in order to help you keep your job, you may be receiving a subsidy.
If you feel you are receiving help from your employer in this way, inform Social Security when you file for disability. Social Security will contact your employer to ascertain if your employer is indeed subsidizing you and what they consider the worth of your work to be when compared to other employees performing the same job. Generally, your employer will be asked what percentage they feel you are performing at. For example, if you are working full time but your employer feels your actual work is only worth 50% of other coworkers' work, you may be earning SGA but your work would be counted at 50% less.
The reason Social Security considers subsidy is that they do not want to penalize someone whose employer is trying to help them keep a job until they can get some financial help through Social Security Disability.
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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