CAN I WORK AND STILL RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS?

How Social Security Defines Disability

The Social Security Administration defines disability in terms of a person’s ability to work. To be disabled, a person must be unable to perform substantial work, based on a condition that lasts, or is expected to last, for at least 12 months (or result in death).

One key concept in this disability definition is the word “substantial.” In most cases, work is not substantial unless you are earning more than a specified amount per month. In 2014, this amount is $1,070 – a person who earns less than that is not considered to be performing substantial work. There are special rules for self-employed persons, and the limit is higher for blind persons.

Working after the Date You Apply You Apply for Social Security Disability

There are times when a person who has applied for disability benefits can continue to work without jeopardizing his or her application. If the amount the person is earning is less than the “substantial” amount mentioned above, the work won’t prevent them from applying or receiving social security disability benefits. This is often the case when the work is part-time. One important distinction is made between persons who are working part-time because their medical condition makes them unable to do full-time work, and someone who is able to work more hours, but can’t find full-time work.

A Social Security Administrative Law Judge can look at part-time work in two ways. The fact that someone works part-time might be evidence that they are capable of working. On the other hand, particularly if the reason for not working full-time is related to the medical proof of disability, a Judge might view a person who is making an effort to work more favorably. The best example of this would be when the claimant’s physician has restricted them to part time work.

Social Security will also take into account an unsuccessful work attempt. If a person tries to go back to work, but finds that he or she is unable to do the job, that should not be held against them.

Working After You Are Approved for Social Security Disability Benefits

The same considerations mentioned above apply to someone who has been approved for disability benefits. If the work is less than “substantial,” or is a failed work attempt, it should not affect their eligibility.

Social Security also has a trial work period. During a trial work period, a someone receiving Social Security disability benefits may test his or her ability to work and still be considered disabled. Social Security does not consider services performed during the trial work period as showing that the disability has ended until services have been performed in at least 9 months (not necessarily consecutive) within a 60-month period. In 2014, any month in which earnings exceed $770 is considered a month of services for an individual’s trial work period. During the trial work period, social security disability benefits are not affected.

It is necessary to report to Social Security when you begin work, and also to let them know if you lose your job.

Considerations for persons receiving Supplemental Security Income

Although SSI recipients are eligible for a trial work period, the amount of your benefits may be affected. If your only income besides SSI is the money you make from working, Social Security will not count the first $85 of your monthly earnings. They deduct from your SSI payments 50 cents of every dollar you earn after the $85 deduction. SSI recipients need to report the amount of their earnings on a monthly basis.

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