Question of the Month: Will seasonal work affect my application for disability benefits?

October 15, 2019

This time of year, many companies, especially retailers, will hire temporary staff for the holidays. Often those who cannot work at a regular job due to a medical impairment are tempted to take one of these jobs for a few weeks. Typically, they do it for an admirable reason: to provide a memorable holiday season for their families. But if you are applying for Social Security disability benefits, you should approach these jobs with the knowledge of how they can affect your case.

Nash attorney Dan Rosen says, “Many clients think that if they are just working ‘seasonally,’ it’s fine and it won’t affect their case, similar to temporary work. But the government will just presume that they could do that work full-time year-round if offered to them, and may deny them disability benefits just based on that.”

Additionally, you can get tripped up on what is known as “Substantial Gainful Activity” (SGA). SSA says that if you are working (even part-time) and your work results in wages equal or in excess of the SGA, even for a month, you may not be eligible for disability benefits. For 2019, if you earn more than $1,220 per month, you will be considered to be engaged in “Substantial Gainful Activity.” Rosen points out that “some disability claimants believe that if they are working below the SGA amount and only go over for a few months during the holidays, it won’t affect them and that simply isn’t true.”

Similarly, working in the “gig economy” like driving for Uber or Lyft can affect your application for disability benefits. The same Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations which apply to other forms of self-employment also govern how the SSA views this kind of work. (Read our blog post for more on Uber/Lyft and Social Security Disability.)

This is not to say that one cannot try to work and still receive benefits. SSA has complex rules about how work attempts can affect a claim. This is why it’s important not to make presumptions that work will or will not affect your case. Instead, call the skilled Chicago disability attorneys at Nash Disability Law.