A question about working and receiving disability benefits


I lost my job and applied for and received unemployment benefits a few months ago. After a short time my mental and physical health declined rapidly. My physician and my therapist suggested I apply for SSD but still see if I could find a job I could handle. I have not had much luck finding a job, and just now I have been awarded SSD benefits which will begin in a few months.

Since I have been classified as disabled, how do I handle this? I really was trying to find a decent-paying low stress job, but they don't seem to exist for me.

I am now eligible to apply for Medicaid, so I have a few processes to go through all at once. I don't want to do anything illegal, but I also don't want to lose my house.


If I understand the situation correctly, you received unemployment benefits in the past, filed for disability, and then received an award for disability benefits. It seems as though you are asking about whether or not you can work while you receive disability. If this is the case, let me say that that is not illegal. And I certainly understand that you would want to avoid putting yourself in an even worse finacial situtation.

When you receive disability, you can work as long as your earnings do not go over a certain limit. That limit is known as SGA, which stands for substantial gainful activity.

Here are a few pages that may be helpful.

1. Can I work without it affecting my Social Security Disability or SSI?.

"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."

2. What is SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity) and how does it affect Social Security Disability and SSI Eligibility?.

"At the time you file a disability application, if you are earning over the SGA amount, you will be denied for an initial disability claim, regardless of your medical condition. Remember, too, if you are receiving disability benefits the SGA monthly amount will also affect you."

3. Are you allowed to work at all if you get Social Security Disability or SSI?.

"If you are receiving Social Security Disability, you should be especially careful about substantial work activity during the first twelve months of your disability entitlement. Work activity at this point could cause your disability case to be reopened to a denial of disability benefits. After the first year of entitlement, work activity can still affect your eligibility for monthly disability benefits."

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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