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Can I Work when Filing for Social Security Disability?

Posted in Social Security Disability. Tuesday, Dec 22nd, 2015

It can take months to begin receiving social security disability benefits after filing for them. In the meantime, there are still medical costs that are incurred and daily living expenses that must be paid. It can be hard to make ends meet while applying for social security disability benefits and even after being approved for these benefits. Depending on the extent of the disability, it may still be possible for an individual to earn some income. One question we often receive is whether working while applying for social security disability benefits will cause an application to be denied.

How Much Income Can I Make and Still Receive Benefits?

Part of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) analysis on whether to allow benefits is to review whether the applicant is currently working and how much income the applicant receives. Part of the SSA’s disability definition includes the requirement that the applicant not be able to perform “substantial gainful activity.”

According to the SSA, substantial gainful activity is employment that brings in more than a certain amount of money. The substantial gainful activity amount is adjusted annually. For most individuals, the amount for 2016 will be $1,130 per month. This means that if you make more than $1,130 per month, the SSA assumes that you are not disabled. For 2015, the substantial gainful activity amount was $1,090. The amount for blind individuals is different than for non-blind individuals; for blind applicants, the amount is $1,820 for both 2015 and 2016. Importantly, when the SSA reviewer first looks at an application, income is one of the first things that is reviewed. Therefore, if your income is over the substantial gainful activity limit, it is likely your claim will be immediately denied.

Additionally, there is a risk that comes with working and making close to the substantial gainful activity amount. It is possible that a claims examiner or judge will consider that if you make close to the substantial gainful activity amount, you might not be totally disabled and you may be able to work to make more money. It is important to consult with an experienced social security disability attorney to discuss how employment levels may impact your claim.

What if I Have Already Been Approved for Benefits?

If you are not working and receive social security disability benefits and feel like you may be able to begin working again, the SSA does allow benefits recipients to test their ability to work. During this test or trial work period, the recipient can continue to receive full benefits, regardless of his or her income amount. This trial work period lasts for nine months. For 2016, the trial work periods are those that the benefit recipient makes at least $810. If there are nine months (not consecutive, but over a five year period), of employment with over $810, then the SSA will consider this as evidence that the disability has ended.

Similarly, if you qualified for benefits with employment income less than the substantial gainful activity amount, but you stop working, you might need to provide evidence that your condition deteriorated to the point that you had to stop working.

Work with a Columbus Social Security Disability Attorney

There are a lot of nuances involved with trying to determine how your work may impact your social security disability benefits both before and after your claim is approved. Even if you are over the monthly substantial gainful activity income limit, there may still be factors to your situation that allow you to work and claim benefits. Attorney Mike Gertner has decades of experience as a Columbus social security disability attorney and can help answer your questions about how working may impact your benefits. Contact us today toll free at 877-772-1011 for a free consultation or complete our online contact form.