Many individuals who contact my office are severely disabled, but are working when they contact me. They often have questions as to whether or not they can work and collect Social Security Disability benefits. The purpose of this article is to address that question.
First of all, you cannot be working full-time, regardless of how disabled you are, and receive Social Security Disability benefits. By virtue of working full-time and earning a significant income, you are proving that you are not disabled. In order to have a chance to recover Social Security Disability benefits, you must either stop working, or have your hours reduced. We do not recommend reducing your hours just to apply for benefits, but this should only be done by those who truly are disabled. However,there are many individuals who may damage their health if they continue working and there are others who are so disabled that they risk further injury.
Under the present law, a person can work as long as their income is not defined as “substantial gainful activity”. If you earnless than $980.00 a month before taxes in 2009, you can apply and potentially receive Social Security Disability benefits. If you are earning more than the amount which Social Security defines as substantial gainful activity, regardless of how severely disabled you are, then you will not be eligible for benifits. The amounts that Social Security defines as constituting substantial gainful activity can change from time to time. Consequently, it is important to check with the Social Security Administration in order to make sure that you are under the appropriate amount. In fact, you can continue working, even while you are on disability, provided that you do not exceed the amount that you are allowed to earn.
It should be understood, however, that the Social Security Administration can look at the type of work that you are doing in order to determine whether they believe you are disabled. If you are working ten hours a month, but you are a jackhammer operator, they may contend that your work is rigorous and is inconsistent with your claim.If you work full-time, but for a short period, a judge may classify this as an “unsuccessfu work attempt.”
If you decide that you are going to reduce your hours, or leave your employment, you must keep in mind that it may be quite some time before a decision is ultimately rendered in your case. If the decision is favorable, then you may have gone through a lot of financial hardship, even though you will eventually begin receiving benefits. On the other hand, Social Security operates by stringent standards and, if you are not approved, you may never be in a position to make up the lost income which you received.
Submitted by: Jeff Swaney
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