Working When Applying for Benefits

While it can take a long time to get approved, working while a disability application is pending can often impact the claim for disability benefits.   Technically, the SSA does not consider earnings under $1,310 per month (gross wage) as work activity and is allowable.  However, the fundamental question in a SSA disability claim is, can this individual perform work on a full-time competitive basis. Therefore, any work activity, no matter the amount, is often evidence of the ability to perform work.   


This can often be evidence both for and against approval.   On the one hand, the disability examiner or administrative law judge may be less likely to conclude a medical condition is functionally limiting.   A judge may believe that if a claimant can work a somewhat demanding job part-time, then it’s possible a claimant can work full time at an easier position.  Or they may believe a claimant might be working part time only because they cannot find full-time work. 


On the other hand, the work activity could be strong evidence of the inability to perform work on a more full-time basis.  Perhaps a person is working with accommodations, such as less demanding tasks, or a highly supportive boss who allows for frequent and unpredictable absentees.  Perhaps after a short shift the person must rest for two days to recover.  A letter from the supervisor or employer detailing this support or accommodation would likely aid in a SSA disability case.


Once a claimant starts receiving benefits, the rules change as to whether someone can work part time. For Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit still applies, but you have what’s called a “trial work period.” This is a period of nine months during which a claimant can earn more than the SGA limit and attempt to return to the workforce.


We advise consulting with an SSA disability lawyer regarding the specific facts of your case as working while applying for disability benefits is a highly nuanced area.

If you have additional questions, reach out to Viner Disability Law or call 720-515-9012.


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