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Working While Your Disability Claim is Pending: A Delicate Balance

January 18, 2022

Working while disabled or when your claim is pending is a delicate balance. Social Security Disability benefits are for people who are unable to work. However, because claimants still need to eat and have a roof over their heads, stopping work entirely isn’t always realistic. A person may not be able to go back to their past job, but they need to make ends meet somehow.

Can you still work after applying for Social Security Disability?

Photo of person using a measuring tape with work gloves on.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration understands having some income is necessary while waiting for benefits. Thus, guidelines are in place so that people can still take care of themselves while their claim is pending. The following needs to be kept in mind by anyone who is even considering working while their claim for SSD or SSI is pending.

Gross Earnings Limit Under Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Your gross earnings (i.e., before any taxes) must stay below the limit set by Social Security, called Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). SGA is raised each year to accommodate the cost of living. The SGA level for 2022 is $1,350 per month (up from $1,310 in 2021). For those that are statutorily blind, the amount is higher at $2,260 for 2022. In order to still qualify for disability benefits, you must keep your gross earnings well below that figure.

The Type of Work You Do May Affect Your Claim

Keep in mind that the type of work you choose to do may also affect your claim. While earning more than SGA is a complete bar to receiving benefits, work under SGA is evidence for the Social Security Administration of what you can and can’t do. So while you’re still able to receive benefits for the months you worked under SGA, you’re also creating evidence that may hurt your case.

Can You Qualify for Disability if You Worked “Under the Table”?

If you think you can work “under the table” while on disability – think again. Having a job under the table can compromise your eligibility for benefits. Medical notes and other sources easily divulge those work efforts. It’s also important to understand that one must have a sufficient work history to have contributed to the disability fund. Not having enough “work credits” can also impact your ability to qualify for disability benefits.

Will SSA See All of My Work History?

Do not think you can hide your work history from Social Security. Because they look at your earnings, they will always be able to tell when you worked and how much you earned in any given year, as long as they are jobs in which you paid taxes. They even receive information simply of your hiring.

Considering Going Back to Work While on Disability Benefits?

If you are being represented, always discuss the possibility of returning to work with your attorney/representative before taking the job. He or she will want to advise you as to whether it is a wise move in regard to your claim. This is especially important if you are considering self-employment because the rules are different than discussed above.

The Social Security Administration can even help you go back to work if you are disabled and have been receiving benefits.

No one wants to lose their home or be buried further in debt. By keeping these guidelines in mind, a person can still potentially succeed in proving their claim without jeopardizing their basic needs. There are some instances where a case may meet a dire need criteria where a disability case can be expedited.

Have questions about working while your disability claim is pending?

Don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to answer your questions!