Can I work while my Social Security Disability Case is being decided?

December 23, 2014

We’re often asked, “Can I work while I’m waiting for my Social Security Disability case to be decided? How will I survive if I stop working?”

No matter how sick you are, with few exceptions, if you are working and earning over $1,070 per month before taxes, Social Security will find that you are not disabled.

In fact, the government may not even allow you to file for Social Security Disability while you’re earning over this amount. The government calls this work “substantial gainful activity,” or “SGA.”

Social Security doesn’t care if this is a “real job,” or the job that you have always performed, or a job in your particular field. If you’re earning over $1,070 per month before taxes, even if the work is part-time or sporadic, it’s “SGA.” Even work for cash counts.

Generally speaking, if you’re performing any type of work for which you are compensated, the rules apply. If you are self-employed, your work may count even if you don’t earn $1,070 or even if your business doesn’t make a profit!

Like most rules, however, there are exceptions. For example, if you try to work, but are unable to sustain your job after a short period of time because of your medical problems, this work may not be counted against you. It may, in fact, be more proof of your disability. Or, if you’re working for a family member who doesn’t care if you frequently leave early or call in sick because of your health problems, Social Security may not consider this to be “SGA.”

Keep in mind that if your case is for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), all of this still applies, but in addition, any money you bring in or have in the bank (even if not from work) can reduce or even eliminate the money you ultimately receive if you’re approved. And, if you’re trying to receive benefits on a parent’s wage record, even a small amount of work may cause you to be ineligible for benefits forever!

And keep in mind just because your neighbor’s work does not affect her benefits does not mean you will be in the same situation.

Earlier this year, we represented a client at a hearing with severe physical disabilities. While pursuing her benefits, she was working for a company and selling items out of her home. She thought this was okay, because this was only part-time work, and she had a friend who worked while obtaining benefits. Though her earnings were certainly below $1,070 per month, the judge had many questions at the hearing as to how she was able to perform this work, and why she couldn’t keep full-time work. We were able to win benefits for her by arguing the facts and law in her particular case, but as you can see, even working from home on a small scale can raise eyebrows. This is why it’s important to consult an experienced Chicago area attorney like those at Nash Disability Law for your Social Security case, whether you’re attempting to work or not.

As you can see, the work rules with regard to Social Security Disability benefits are very complicated. Whether you can work and receive benefits can depend on many different factors. At Nash Disability Law, we have represented hundreds of clients who have attempted to work while pursuing benefits and we can advise you on your particular situation. Call our experienced Chicagoland law firm to get the right advice today.