Working While Applying for Social Security Disability

social-security-card-with-chipMany of our Social Security Disability (SSD) clients are faced with severe financial difficulty when they can’t work due to their disability.  When they are on the brink of losing everything or being kicked out of their home, they ask if they can try to return to work and whether it will hurt their claim for Social Security Disability benefits. We explain to them that the simple answer is, yes, you may return to work. However, there are certain factors that must be taken into consideration.

The Social Security Act defines disability as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which has lasted or is expected to last for at least a 12-month period.

Each year, the Social Security Administration designates a monthly amount that it considers substantial gainful activity. For 2015, that monthly amount is $1,090. If you are consistently earning more than $1,090, you are considered to be engaging in “substantial gainful activity” and may not be eligible for benefits.  Even earning up to that amount sporadically may bring into question your ability to work.

Social Security Disability and ‘Ability to Work’

Your ability to work is a question of fact for the examiners and the judge.  If you are working while your claim is pending, the Social Security Administration will likely look at other factors in addition to your earnings.  For instance, they will look at:

Are you actually performing the job duties for the position you were hired into?

  • Are there special accommodations being provided that would otherwise not be provided? This typically occurs when working with friends or family.
  • Are you consistently absent from your job or having to take unscheduled breaks throughout the day?
  • Are you able to work a full 8-hour day?

These factors and many others help determine whether the work you are performing is considered substantial gainful activity.  As we tell our clients, if you can afford not to work, it is obviously the better option. However, if your financial situation does not allow that, just know that any work performed will be examined in determining your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.  For more information, please visit the Social Security Website.  Social Security Disability-Substantial Gainful Employment

If you are considering returning to work while your claim is pending and have questions, contact our office at (850) 437-9600 so one of our Social Security attorneys can help you determine the impact it can have on your claim.