Can I Work and Get Disability?
Social Security’s disability-based programs are subdivided into two programs. With Social Security Disability Income (SSI), they will require the applicant to have been employed for a considerable part of their working lives. The requirements for this stipulation are adjusted per age group. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to applicants who have not worked to the same extent. Let’s get into some details!
Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
Social Security Disability requires a person to have been employed for forty quarters of their life (roughly ten years). This rule is adjusted for younger applicants who, by virtue of their age, have had less opportunity to earn credits for disability. Additionally, the disability program requires you to meet a “recent work test.” This translates into working (roughly) four of the last ten years
When it comes to employment, the Social Security Disability program is most concerned with your income looking like a full-time work effort. To be disabled, one has to be permanently and totally disabled or unable to work for at least a year. Employment income can prevent you from meeting the definition of “disabled”, but not all work effort is considered preclusive. As such, Social Security looks for activity that is both substantial and gainful. In other words, work that generates $1350.00 gross income or more per month and requires hours consistent with full-time employment.
Let’s look at a couple of examples that might not meet this standard.
- Working as a used car salesman can require a lot of hours–but if the salesman is not very good, it might not be gainful.
- An insurance agent might continue to draw commissions long after they stopped working, which may be regarded as gainful without meeting substantial requirements, due to the fewer hours.
Working with Benefits
Social Security Disability applicants can work some and still pursue disability payments. Two factors should guide this decision:
- The closer to $1350.00 per month an applicant gets, the more concerned SSA will be that you are using the standard to regulate hours–as opposed to your work effort being limited by your condition.
- The job has to be reasonable for your condition. Working part-time running a backhoe, for example, does not fit with an applicant claiming disability for chronic back pain. Serving as a door greeter at a retail store would be inconsistent with an applicant claiming difficulties with social interaction.
It is important you seek professional advice if you receive special accommodations, extra breaks, extra time off, or with a reduced workload compared to peers. In these cases, your earning limit might be higher and disability might be an option even if you are earning over $1,350.0 per month.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The SSI program is available for people who have not worked enough to earn sufficient credit, or whose credits are not current enough for Social Security Disability. Any period of time that you drew disability in the past is not considered in this time frame. While this program still requires a disability to qualify, it is also income- and resource-based. In addition to comparing your income against the $1,350.00 Substantial and Gainful Activity standard noted above, the income itself will reduce your potential payment.
Working any number of hours has a direct impact on SSI eligibility. The SSI program is a supplement program, meaning it supplements any income you might have as necessary to bring you up to $841.00 (for an individual) or $1,261.00 (as a couple). As a result, Social Security counts roughly 50¢ of every dollar earned to reduce the potential benefit amount. In this case, your job has a direct impact on your potential eligibility and the payment amount, if approved. We recommend speaking to a disability representative before you make any changes to your income or lifestyle. This can make a considerable impact on your eligibility for SSI, so it never hurts to ask for professional feedback.
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