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What Happens If You Work While Waiting for Social Security Disability?

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Social Security Disability is an income supplement or replacement provided by the federal government for those who meet the requirements of being disabled. In general, when you apply for Social Security Disability, the situation should present itself as clearly disabled or clearly not disabled. In other words, working may be detrimental to the application for Social Security Disability. Despite this, there are some things to consider with regard to working while waiting for or after approval of Social Security Disability.

Work vs. Work Attempts

There is a significant difference between actually working and actively attempting to work. Holding a job tends to reflect favorably on the individual but poorly for the application for disability benefits. On the other hand, attempting to work but not able to maintain a job for reasons pertaining to the disability shows a desire to try but puts severe limitations on the capacity to perform competitively in the job market. Jonathon Ginsberg, a Social Security disability lawyer in Georgia, says that evidence of attempts to work that demonstrate the disability was an obstacle to success is something he would consider “favorable evidence” for disability cases.

Substantial Gainful Activity

Substantial Activity, or Substantial Gainful Activity, refers to the income someone on Social Security or who has applied for disability benefits can earn. This is a maximum value for the monthly income, and it does tend to change annually, so wise disability recipients who work would pay attention for changes. For 2011, the maximum income per month for a non-blind person applying for or receiving Social Security for a disability is $1,000. If the person is blind, the max is $1,640 per month. All income must be reported no matter how little it is.

The Judge's Perception

The judge’s perception is an important factor in Social Security Disability decisions. If the applicant has been working, earning the maximum allowed for those who receive Social Security, this could demonstrate a lack of need for the Disability benefits and thus result in a denial from the judge. As Jonathon Ginsberg notes, even if working from home, and earning only $600 a month, the judge could decide the person simply needs to try harder and that $600 a month from home is not the best that applicant is capable of.

Working After Social Security Disability Decision

After the decision in the applicant’s favor awards them Social Security Disability, if they decide to work to supplement their Disability income they are restricted by the Substantial Gainful Activity limitations. Additionally, if the person engages in a trial work period he may have unlimited income earnings from that trial work period for up to nine months, and the nine months do not have to be in a row. After the nine months of the trial work period, the Social Security Disability recipient undergoes a review to determine if he is still eligible for benefits.


About the Author

Sasha Maggio specializes in topics related to psychology, fitness, nutrition, health, medicine, dentistry, and recovery after surgery, as well as cultural topics including Buddhism, Japanese culture, travel, languages and cooking. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Japanese from the University of Hawaii, as well as a Master of Arts in forensic psychology. She is currently pursuing Medical and PhD programs.

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