How long do you have To be out of Work to Get Disability?

Your condition must be severe enough to prevent substantial work for a year

by Tim Moore, Disability Representative in North Carolina

How long do you have To be out of Work to Get Disability?

There is really no set time for an individual to be out of work prior to filing for Social Security Disability. Literally, if you lose your job today, or have to quit because of your disability, you can apply for disability the following day.

(Read if you live in North Carolina)

Now, if you are asking this question, here are three important things to know to make it even clearer:

  1. To get disability, your condition must be severe enough to prevent your from working and earning a specific gross monthly amount–i.e. before taxes are taken out. This amount is called SGA, and it stands for substantial gainful activity.  The SGA amount for 2021 is $1310. To see the current SGA amount and more on that topic, see the SGA link in the section below.
  2. Your inability to work and earn this amount must last at least a full year.
  3. You do not actually have be out of work for a full year before you apply for disability. Social Security can look at your case and determine if your disability will last at least this long.
  4. You actually can work while you file for disability or while you are receiving disability. But your earnings cannot equal $1310 or you will not be considered disabled by Social Security. If you are applying and go back to work and make this amount, your case will be given an SGA denial. If you are receiving disability and go to work and make this amount, it can cause many problems, including an overpayment, a suspension of benefits, or a termination…which would mean having to apply all over again.

The information above is what you need to know about the topics of “how long do you have to be out of work to get disability” and “how much can you make and get disability”.  To learn more about the definition of disability, continue reading. To learn more about how to win your case, consult the menu bar at the top of the page.

What does Social Security consider a disability?

The Social Security definition of disability states an individual must have a medically determinable mental or medical impairment that has:
A) Prevented them from performing substantial gainful work activity for twelve months,
B) Is expected to prevent them from performing substantial gainful activity for twelve months (SGA, a.k.a. substantial gainful activity, is a monthly earnings amount that a person cannot exceed if they wish to be eligible for disability benefits. The current limit is here: SGA earnings limit),
C) May result in death.

The definition of disability can be confusing to people. Many people think this means they must wait for twelve months to file their disability claim. This is absolutely incorrect. If an individual’s medical or mental impairment has caused them to stop working or reduce their work activity to an amount that is under what Social Security considers to be substantial gainful activity, they should file for Social Security Disability.

If you cannot work, you are disabled

Social Security considers an impairment disabling when it has caused work activity to be significantly reduced or stopped. There are many individuals out there with significant medical or mental conditions who are not eligible for Social Security Disability due to their continuing work activity.

As long as an individual has the ability to work and earn over the SGA monthly earning limit with no employer subsidy (special considerations and help given so the employee can do their job) they will be denied for Social Security Disability prior to a medical determination.

Social Security is for total disability, not partial disability

Social Security is a total disability program and it requires that an individual not be able to work any of their past work or even other work performed in the general economy that they might be qualified for.

In a nutshell, if you become unable to work due to a medical or mental condition, you should consider making an application for disability benefits immediately. The more time you wait to file for disability, the longer you have to wait for disability benefits to be awarded.

You can file a claim the day you stop working or when your work activity is reduced to below the SGA monthly earnings amount.

Questions and Answers

  1. Will I Qualify For SSI, How Do I Get Approved?

  2. Social Security Disability, SSI Claim Decisions For Physical Problems and the Medical Exams that are used

  3. Administrative Law Judge At A Disability Hearing

  4. How Does A Social Security Disability Examiner Work to Determine a Person’s State of Health?

  5. Disability Lawyer Success Rate – Do Lawyers Improve The Chances of Winning?

  6. What Happens When You File A Second SSA Disability Claim?

  7. How Disabled Must You be to get Social Security Disability Approved?

  8. Do You have A Chance Of Losing Disability Benefits If Your Case Gets Reviewed?

  9. Can I get SSI for RA, Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  10. Social Security Notice of Denial for a Disability Application or Appeal

  11. Will the the SSA Disability Examiner Call or Contact Me at some point?

  12. Will a Disability attorney try to Help You get Your Medical Records?

  13. Should I List My Past Depression Medications on My Social Security Disability Application?

  14. How Long Will My Case Be at the Social Security Hearing Office Before It gets Scheduled?

  15. How Does Social Security Disability Make Its Decision?

  16. Does Social Security Depend on Your Illness or the kind of Work that You Did?

  17. Can You Avoid Being Denied on a Social Security Disability Claim?

  18. Will Social Security Disability Pay for X-rays or an MRI?