Can I receive Social Security Disability Benefits if I am working?
The question of work is a common one when it comes to Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Generally speaking, an individual must be unable to work as a result of their disability for them to be eligible to receive disability benefits as financial support. While that is the case for many SSD recipients, there are some situations where an individual may be able to perform some work in order to earn an income as they wait for their benefits application to be processed. We will explore the different circumstances below and help answer any questions that you may have regarding working and SSD benefits.
Are You Applying for SSD Benefits and Still Working at Your Job?
While you are applying for Social Security Benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at your current employment and the amount of income you are earning before they will even look at your disability that you are applying for. By definition, your disability must restrict your ability to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) for 12 months or more as a result of your impairment.
What is Substantial Gainful Activity?
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is employment and/or work that brings in over a specific dollar amount of income each month. As of 2020, the SGA amount for a non-blind disability applicant is $1,260 per month and $2,110 per month for a blind SSD application. When you apply to receive SSD benefits, the SSA will review your monthly income to determine if your income falls above below the SGA limits. If you are generating more than the SGA income each month, you typically will not be eligible to receive Social Security benefits as you are still able to work and earn a competitive wage, regardless of your disability.
Will My Application Be Approved if I Make Less Than the SGA Limit
Just because you have a low income, does not automatically qualify you for receiving SSD benefits. Your income is just one factor that the SSA will take into consideration with your application. They will not only review your income but will also do a thorough review of your medical records, medical treatment, employment history as well as many other factors to determine how great your disability will impact your opportunity to work not only in your current job but also in alternative jobs in the future.
What Happens if I Stop Working After I Apply for Benefits?
If you have applied for benefits and realized that your income puts you above the SGA limits, you may decide that it would be best for you to stop working until your application is approved. If this is the case, you will need to prove to the Social Security Administration that your decrease in hours and income is a result of your disability preventing you from working rather than simply choosing not to work. This will require medical records from your doctor, as well as details and results from any treatments or rehabilitation efforts.
Can I Start Working After My Application for Benefits Has Been Approved?
After you have been approved to receive benefits you cannot start doing any new work that puts you above the SGA limits. That being said, there is a nine-month work trial period in which someone that is currently receiving benefits may “test” their ability to work if their condition or impairment changes. During this trial period, income over the SGA limits does not affect the number of benefits that they receive each month as it allows the individual to explore if they can return to the workplace with their disability. The nine-month trial starts when an individual earns more than $910 in a month while they are currently receiving SSD benefits. After the nine-month trial, if an SSD recipient continues to work, they will not receive benefits any month that they earn over the SGA limit of $1,260. If they earn under $1,260 in a month, they will receive their predetermined benefit amounts. This will continue for a period of 36 months after the nine-month trial.
What if My Disability Prevents Me From Working Again After I Return to Work?
If you returned to the workplace and continue to make over the SGA limits, you may stop receiving your benefits. Because of this, the SSA allows a 5-year window for those that have already been approved to receive benefits to receive expedited reinstatement of their benefits if their disability returns to prevent them from being able to work to earn an income without requiring a new application.
Do You Have Questions About Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits and Continuing to Work?
The application process to receive Social Security Disability Benefits can be a long and confusing process. Many applications are rejected due to certain requirements not being met, including the ability to work and monthly income. If you have questions about your specific situation and would like to know the best options for your disability case, fill out our free consultation form to be connected with a local disability attorney to discuss your application and your best path for moving forward towards receiving benefits.