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Can I work up until I receive Social Security Administration disability benefits?

Many Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income claimants want to know if they can work up until they are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. This is a great question and sounds like a good idea, especially considering the Social Security Administration disability decision making process can take weeks, months or even years for some disability claimants, but the answer to the question goes to the fundamental definition of disability according to the Social Security Administration: If you can work you are not disabled.

That’s right; according to the Social Security Administration disabled by its very definition means you do not have the capability to perform what they call “substantial gainful activity” for at least 12 continuous months due to a severe mental or physical health condition.

So what if you can work or perform substantial gainful activity? If you are able to work right now or if you are working too many hours or making too much money the Social Security Administration will automatically consider you not disabled and will deny your Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income case, and they will do this without ever requesting your medical records or evaluating the severity of your health condition.

Common mistakes made by disability applicants


If you are currently working and performing substantial gainful activity you have several considerations to make. Either you must decide that your condition has become so severe you cannot work and you stop working and apply for benefits or you continue to work. Below is listed several things you DO NOT want to do.

A common mistake made by many Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income claimants is reducing their hours gradually until they are working very part-time (less than substantial gainful activity). This may be one way to deal with your health limitations but because Social Security Disability Insurance is based on your average lifetime earnings, if your wages decrease substantially for many years the amount of SSDI you are entitled to receive (if you were to get SSDI) would decrease as well.

Many claimants stop working because their disability makes it impossible to work but they do not apply for Social Security Disability Insurance. While you may be covered or insured by SSDI for a time, there is a date in the future (date last insured) that you will no longer qualify for SSDI benefits. If you quit performing substantial work due to a severe health condition, apply for Social Security Disability Insurance immediately. If you do not qualify for SSDI and you are applying for Supplemental Security Income this is not an issue.

If there is one thing a Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income claimant should do prior to quitting work it would be to make sure they have an emergency fund. Getting SSI and SSDI can be very difficult and it is important to have enough money to support yourself while you wait for the Social Security Administration to make their disability decision.

So, to reiterate the answer to the question, if you are working too much now you will be denied benefits, and although you may be able to work VERY part-time, you will not be able to work full-time and get SSDI or SSI benefits.
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