Can I supplement my disability with part-time work?

Hello. I work in the IT field and am planning to go on disability for a cardiovascular condition. Since I won't be making nearly as much on disability, I was hoping I could supplement that with possibly a part time photography business. Will I lose my benefits if I do that?

Quite a few individuals work part-time and receive disability benefits. The issue is not whether you are working, but, rather, what you are earning while you are working. The limit for earned income while you either receive or apply for disability benefits is known as the SGA or substantial gainful activity limit.

If you have gross monthly earnings that are less than this amount, you should have no problem. That said, work activity that is not at the SGA level can still trigger a review of your case. When that happens, Social Security will check to see if your condition and limitations still satisfy the definition of disability used by SSA.

Essentially, they will be checking to see if you have sustained medical improvement. Medical improvement, however, is difficult for the Social Security Administration to prove because an individual would have to have continued to be seen by their medical providers who indicate, in their records, that functional improvement has occurred. This probably rarely happens because doctors rarely make mention of functional capabilities in their records which is the same reason that getting approved for disability can be difficult (i.e. the medical records).

Here is a link to what the current SGA limit is: What is SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity) and how does it affect Social Security Disability and SSI Eligibility?.

Good luck on your case.

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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