Continuing the discussion of Social Security Disability eligibility, attorney TC Newlin explains Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), the Earned Income Test, and how working—or your capacity to do work—affects your claim for disability benefits.
Yes, you can work while applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, but there are specific rules and limitations you must be aware of to ensure that your work activity does not jeopardize your eligibility for disability benefits.
Working While Applying for SSDI Benefits
Here are the key points to consider:
- Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA): The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the concept of Substantial Gainful Activity to determine if your work qualifies as substantial enough to make you ineligible for disability benefits. For 2021, the SGA limit is set at earning $1,310 per month (or $2,190 for blind individuals). Earning more than this amount could disqualify you from receiving SSDI.
- Trial Work Period (TWP): The SSA allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months within a rolling 60-month period. During the TWP, you can receive full SSDI benefits regardless of how high your earnings might be, as long as you report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment.
- Reporting Your Work: It’s crucial to report any work you perform to the SSA. This includes changes in your work activity, such as starting or stopping work, changes in duties, hours, or pay rate.
- Effect on Application: Working while applying for SSDI can complicate your claim. If your earnings are above the SGA level, the SSA may conclude that you are not disabled according to their definition. If your earnings are below the SGA level, you may still qualify for benefits, but you must demonstrate that your work is limited due to your disability.
- Impact on Disability Evaluation: The fact that you are working, especially if you are earning near or above the SGA level, might influence how the SSA assesses your disability. They might consider whether your current work is significantly different from your previous work and whether it can be sustained over time.
- Consulting a Professional: Given the complexities, it’s advisable to consult with a disability attorney or advocate. They can provide guidance on how your work activity may affect your SSDI application and help you navigate the reporting requirements.
In summary, while it is possible to work while applying for SSDI, doing so requires careful consideration of the SSA’s rules regarding earnings and disability. Accurate and timely reporting of your work activity is essential to maintain compliance with SSA regulations.