Based upon our experience of trying disability claims for more than 40 years, the short answer to this question is an emphatic no if you are working before being awarded benefits.
However, after you are awarded Social Security Disability benefits, some various programs and regulations may allow some work up to a level less than substantial gainful activity, which is determined by the government each year.
Confusing, is it not? That’s because the answer is not simple.
An Example Case
Let’s take the case of an applicant seeking Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. We have to show that the claimant cannot perform substantial gainful activity for a minimum of 12 months. Invariably if the claimant continues to work during the application process, it ends up being the nail in the coffin as far as his or her case is concerned. Although the regulations may indicate you can work, I am not concerned with what the regulations actually say. I have formed this opinion after litigating literally thousands of cases and seeing how the judges treated individuals who worked during their Social Security Disability claim.
It is extremely difficult to convince an adjudicator or administrative law judge that you can work 20 hours a week, but you can’t work full-time 40 hours per week. It is not a reasonable trial tactic to work even part-time while seeking Social Security Disability. While a failed work attempt, which occurs when you try to work but have to quit or get fired due to be medical issues, can enhance a Social Security Disability claim, steady work–even if below the substantial gainful activity amount–raises a big red flag.
This opinion is based on our trial experience and not on what some of the regulations say. For instance, the regulations allow for a failed work attempt of up to six months prior to getting disability. As I said, this can enhance the claim, but most of the time, we end up with the judge treating an applicant as if he or she is trying to have their cake and eat it too, leading to a denial of benefits.
Circumstances Where You Can Work And Still Receive Disability Benefits
After Social Security Disability benefits are granted, theoretically, you can work as long as it is below the substantial gainful activity level. You can also work above the substantial gainful activity level for up to nine months. Once you worked for nine months at or above the substantial gainful activity level, it will have been determined that your attempt to return to work has been successful and your Social Security Disability benefits you previously received before working would normally be terminated.
These nine months do not have to be sequential, meaning that if you work for more than nine months and earn more than the substantial gainful activity level, your benefits may be terminated even if those nine months of work were accumulated in multiple work attempts periodically over several years.
There also is what the federal government calls the “ticket to work” program that can allow you to work while receiving disability.
Contact Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyers
Therefore, the quick answer is that work activity before being awarded benefits often hurts your case except in very specific circumstances. Work activity after you’ve been awarded benefits may well be possible as long as it doesn’t exceed the substantial gainful activity level. Substantial gainful activity can be determined by simply googling the Social Security Administration about the substantial gainful activity amount for any given year.
Although this answer is not the clearest, this is about as straight an answer as we can give on this subject, unfortunately.
However, if you still have questions about working and Social Security Disability after reading this, you or someone you know needs help getting Social Security Disability, call Drummond Law at (800) 842-0426 for a FREE consultation.