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Work and Social Security Disability

 One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is a variation of the following, “How much can I work when seeking disability from SSA?”  Some people do not realize there are guidelines for working when receiving or applying for Social Security Disability.

Keep in mind, I am addressing the effect of work on an application or benefits, NOT the effect on income on potential SSI benefits.  The two are very different.  Income of any kind will affect SSI benefits as they are income-based.  Social Security Disability benefits, on the other hand, are not.

Here are three things to keep in mind if you want to work while applying for or receiving Social Security Disability:

1.    Social Security defines “disability” as an individual with one or more medical impairment that PREVENTS them from performing Substantial Gainful Activity (i.e., competitive work).    

In other words, if you are working making more than $1100/month, then by definition, you are not disabled, and will not qualify for Social Security Disability.  (There are a handful of rare exceptions such as blindness).

2.    Social Security allows people to test their ability to work through a Trial Work Period.  The base amount for a Trial Work Period is $800/month.  Continually making $800/month or more will trigger a Continuing Medical Review with Social Security.  Therefore, if you decide to test your ability to work, make sure and communicate with Social Security about what you are doing, and how that will impact your benefits.

3.     Work lasting less than 6 months can be considered an Unsuccessful Work Attempt.

It is always best to confer with Social Security if you begin working and are receiving benefits.  The rules and regulations change frequently and only Social Security can tell you how your work will affect your benefits or application.