How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Will I be penalized for trying to work after filing for disability?

The following scenario and question was left as a comment on another post. Here is the comment reposted, along with the response to the questions asked.

"I filed for disability in November, hired an attorney and began to wait, and wait,...and wait. I had pretty much concluded that I wasn't going to be awarded. So, in an effort to keep from losing my home, in August I took a job at least "trying" to work. Then much to my surprise, one day in November I received a check for $9,000 and my award letter. I contacted SSI to make them aware that I had been trying to work because I didn't realize I was approved.

Even my dead-beat attorney didn't realize I had been approved. So, now I have worked for almost 3 months and am frightened SSI could not only "cancel" my benefits, but also ask for their $9,000 back. Has anyone ever had this happen to them? Of course I am no longer working, but I still have no idea what they might might do. I am fine with re-paying the $9,000...I just don't want to lose my benefits."

I cannot tell by your post if you are receiving Social Security Disability ,Supplemental Security Income disability benefits (SSI), or both. If you did not work longer than three months, there is a possibility that you may not have to worry. Social Security Disability applicants can have what is known as an unsuccessful work attempt.

Generally, unsuccessful work attempts can be excused if the work did not last more than three months. You may be entitled to keep the back pay and stay on your disability benefits.


1. Can I work without it affecting my disability or SSI?
2. Will Social Security deny my disability claim if I am working?
3. Are You Allowed to Work While Receiving Social Security Disability or SSI?

It is so hard to give you an answer because I do not know the facts of your disability claim. For example, exactly how long you worked or what you earned for the time you worked. I would say that you should report your work to Social Security, so that you will not be overpaid. Believe me, in this case it is better to know if you are going to remain eligible to receive disability benefits. If you are not eligible for disability benefits your overpayment will increase with each month of disability benefits that you receive.

At this point, there is nothing you can do about the fact that you worked, so you can either report the work or wait until Social Security reviews your disability claim. The advantage in reporting now is that you would know where you stand. If SSI is involved, you may not be entitled to some of the back pay simply because income for the months that you worked may make you ineligible for benefits.

As you can see, a lot of issues come up when disability applicants who have work activity and like I said I cannot answer this question with certainty. Of course, this has happened to other disability beneficiaries (many, many, many). You are not the first this has happened to nor will you be the last. I doubt that your disability benefits will be terminated, however you may or may not have an overpayment. I would suggest that you go to your local Social Security office and get some information.

Good luck!

Essential Questions

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Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

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These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

Getting a disability approval
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Disability hearing results
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Social Security Disability appeal status
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For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.