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Can I work and get Social Security Disability benefits?

Claimants may qualify for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance working part-time and receiving a limited income, but Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will be denied by the Social Security Administration if the SSA determines the Social Security Disability applicant is performing “substantial gainful activity”.

Substantial Gainful Activity

The Social Security Administration defines “substantial gainful activity” as doing any type of mental or physical activity which is “substantial”. Work is considered substantial if the non-blind applicant makes a gross income of $1,000 per month (for 2010), and the blind applicant makes a gross income of $1,640 per month (for 2010).

Activity or work does not have to be performed full-time to be substantial. When claimants consider “work” or “gainful activity” they might think of a full-time job that they do 40 hours per week, but activity can be gainful under the Social Security Administration’s definition if it meets any of the following Social Security Administration’s criteria:

·         Any work performed or done for pay or profit.

·         Work which normally receives pay or profit

·         Work which is intended for profit even if profit is not realized

After a claimant applies for Social Security Disability their application is sent to the disability examiner who will review their application to determine if their mental or physical health condition is severe enough to receive disability benefits. Claimants working above the pre-defined SGA level will have their Social Security Disability application denied by the Social Security Administration before it is sent to the disability examiner, and the disability examiner will not have a chance to evaluate the severity of the mental or physical health condition.

Claimants often are not healthy enough to work full-time and often seek Social Security Disability benefits for short-term or partial disability payments. Unfortunately, Social Security Disability benefits are only for claimants who have a mental or physical health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. Claimants who need Social Security Disability benefits should not expect to work at a level which can support themselves or their family.

The idea of substantial gainful activity is not only factored into the decision at the Social Security Disability application level and Social Security disability appeal’s process but also for every review for continuing an applicant’s Social Security Disability benefits.  Any claimant who currently receives Social Security Disability benefits and is considering returning to work in any part-time capacity should contact the Social Security Administration. Regulations and income rules can change. Returning to work and making more than the allowable income amount can jeopardize the claimant’s rights to continue receiving Social Security Disability benefits. Talk to a Social Security Disability lawyer for more information about your rights to work.