Will Social Security deny my disability claim if I am working?

Not necessarily.

Social Security Disability guidelines do not preclude all work activity. If you are working but not performing SGA, your disability claim may very well result in an approval for disability benefits. Each year, the Social Security Administration sets a monthly SGA amount. Substantial gainful activity, or SGA, is a monthly earnings amount that Social Security considers self-supporting. Generally SGA is full time work, however part-time work may be considered SGA if it results in monthly earnings that are over the SGA limit.

When you file your disability claim, the claims representative will thoroughly address all work activity for the prior fifteen years, as well as your current work activity. While evaluating your work activity, they determine if your current work activity is SGA.

SGA can be affected by special considerations given by your employer that allow you to perform your job. Special considerations might be less production, more breaks, more sick time, etc. If you receive special considerations, your work may not be worth the amount you are paid. If you allege that your employer is giving special considerations, Social Security will verify them with your employer. They will include a subsidy questionnaire for your employer to complete. The questionnaire allows your employer to indicate the value of your actual work.

For example, if you are earning $1600.00 a month and your employer indicates that your work is worth fifty percent of your pay, your earnings for the purposes of a SGA determination would be counted as $800.00 a month. In this example, Social Security would make a determination that you are not engaging in SGA, even though your reported earnings are above SGA.

However, if you have no special considerations or subsidy from your employer and your earnings are indeed over the SGA monthly earnings limit, your disability claim will be denied. There is no flexibility other than subsidy that would allow you to be approved for disability if you are working and earning over the SGA limit.

The Social Security definition of disability is two-fold. Not only must you have a severe medical or mental condition, your condition must prevent you from performing substantial work activity for at least twelve months. You cannot be approved for disability if both of these criteria are not met.

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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