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Do you have to quit work to get Social Security Disability Benefits?

It can take up to 2 years to win Social Security Disability benefits, with this is mind, many claimants want to know if they have to quit work to apply for benefits. Although the SSA tries to process both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims as soon as possible, there are hundreds of thousands of claimants and the process is very cumbersome.

First, before answering this question it is important to understand how a claimant qualifies for both SSI and SSDI based on a disability. The SSA will award disability benefits to claimants who have a severe mental or physical health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and who are no longer able to work or to perform work at a “substantial level”.

What does this mean? If a claimant is able to continue to work and make more than a gross monthly income of $1000 (in 2011) their claim will be denied. This is called a technical denial. The claimant’s medical records are not requested by a Social Security Disability examiner and ineligibility is based on non-medical reasons, regardless of the severity of their condition. A technical denial cannot be appealed.

What does the Social Security Administration consider work?

So if you are unable to receive benefits if you are working too much, what does the Social Security Administration consider “work”?

As listed above, the SSA considers making more than $1,000 to be work or substantial gainful activity. Why $1,000? In 2011, the SSA uses this amount to establish the minimum amount of money they think that claimants could make and be considered “productive”.

What if you are not working? Are there other activities which claimants perform that could also be considered work? For instance, what if you are a student and you attend school full-time, is this work? Maybe you are a homemaker taking care of children full-time, is this work?

According to the Social Security Administration, work does not have to be full-time or profitable to be considered gainful. In fact, it is possible to work part-time and be denied Social Security Disability benefits. Each of the following may be considered work by the Social Security Administration:

• 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

On our Social Security Disability forum we get a lot of questions from students wondering if they can attend school and get Social Security Disability benefits.
Maybe, but if the student is able to walk around campus, study hours each night, carry a backpack, sit attentively in class, and socialize with other students, it is likely the SSA may decide this level of activity could be comparable to work.

Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer

Many claimants wonder what they can do to survive until their SSI or SSDI benefits are processed. They are generally assuming they will be approved within 120 days and do not want to consider the possibility that up to 70% of claimants will be denied at the application level.

There is no easy solution for claimants who have been out of work for months and who are waiting for their disability payments to be processed. The SSA does offer emergency payments for some claimants but if you do not qualify for this benefit the most important thing to do is to make sure your medical records are complete and clearly state why you are disabled and unable to work. Another option is hiring a Social Security Disability lawyer.

If you would like a Social Security Disability 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.