Many claimants applying for Social Security Disability benefits want to know if they can work part-time and qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. This is a complicated question. The first thing to understand is what the Social Security Administration means by the term “disabled”.
According to the Social Security Administration, claimants are only disabled if they have a disabling mental or physical health condition which is so serious that they are unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) for 12 continuous months.
What does this mean for you? If you are able to perform substantial gainful activity, although you may have a debilitating health condition, the Social Security Administration will automatically consider you not disabled.
Ideally, the Federal Government would offer temporary and/or partial disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, but they do not. Social Security Disability benefits should be viewed as basically a permanent disability benefit (although many claimants do eventually return to work) and a 100% disability program. If you are only partially disabled or able to work, this is not the program for you.
So what does the Social Security Administration mean by “work” or SGA? According to the SSA, work is substantial “if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both. For work activity to be substantial, it does not need to be performed on a full-time basis. Work activity performed on a part-time basis may also be substantial gainful activity.”
Work does not have to be full-time nor do you have to be paid for your work for it to be substantial. For example, the activity could be for pay, but it also could be other types of work that would normally be intended for profit. For example, if you are caring for children full-time but claiming that you are unable to “work”, the SSA may determine that your childcare duties are in fact work because it is an activity, which not only requires a great deal of physical stamina, but is also done for profit by many people.
Attempting to Return to Work
The Social Security Administration has created several programs to help claimants return to work on a trial basis. There are very specific rules for a Trial Work Period and if you are considering returning to work, contact the SSA for more information. Failure to follow the requirements of the Trial Work Period program can result in termination of SSDI benefits.
What is the Trial Work Period (TWP)? The TWP allows you to work up to 9 months in any five year period while continuing to collect your Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. During this 9 month work period your earnings are not capped and only the months where you earn more than $1,000 (in 2011) are counted as a trial work period month.
What happens after your nine months are used up? The Social Security Administration evaluates your work earnings or income for 36 months after your TWP, this is called your extended period of eligibility. During this period if your earnings are considered “substantial” (making more than $1,000 in 2011) you will have to repay any benefits received back to the SSA.
Keep in mind, if the SSA notices that you have several months in a row that of substantial income they may schedule a Continuing Disability Review to determine if you are still disabled, according to their definition of disability, and if they determine you are not, you will lose your SSDI benefits.
As mentioned above, the Trial Work Period is complicated. It does, however, offer many SSDI claimants a great opportunity to attempt to return to work while still receiving SSDI payments for a specified period of time.
If you would like an attorney to review your claim you can fill out the FREE evaluation form and a disability advocate will call you to review your claim or you can call our office at 1-800-641-3759 to talk to someone now.