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Partial disabilities and part-time work can I get it?

It is not unusual for many Social Security Disability Insurance applicants to be able to work very part-time but not a full time job. Recently on our disability forum we had a user ask, “Does the SSA pay for partial disabilities and if they do can I work part-time?"

Partial Disabilities and SSDI benefits

One of the biggest issues with the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is that it is not offered for partial disabilities but is only offered for disabilities which are 100% disabling and does not allow the worker to perform what the SSA calls substantial gainful activity.

The argument is that SSDI should be like other programs such as workers compensation or VA disability which does offer benefits for partial disabilities by giving a disability rating to applicants and paying the applicant according to the rating. For example, someone who loses both their legs would get more money than someone who loses their finger for their partial disabilities.

Because the SSA does not offer benefits for partial disabilities there are many applicants who could work a very reduced work schedule who have to decide if they want to continue to work part-time of if they want to quit work almost entirely so they don’t jeopardize their SSDI benefits or their SSDI application.

So, to answer the applicant’s question, no, the SSA does not offer any type benefits to claimants with partial disabilities. Either a claimant is 100% disabled and cannot work at a substantial and gainful level or they are denied SSDI benefits.

How much part-time work can I do while applying for SSDI?

So if the SSA does not offer benefits for partial disabilities the next question is generally how much time can I work while I apply for SSDI and still qualify for SSDI benefits. This question is not straightforward. For instance, if you are applying for SSDI benefits you cannot make more than $1,010 as an individual or $1,690 for statutorily blind If you are able to generate this amount of income the SSA will not consider you disabled and will automatically deny your SSDI claim, regardless of the severity of your mental or physical health condition.

Your income, however, is only the first issue. It is also possible for you to make less money than this but be working too many hours. This type of work is considered “substantial.” Estimates vary from 15 to 25 hours per week, but the bottom line is if you are working too much, even if your work is not generating a profit, it could be considered “substantial” and you could be automatically denied SSDI benefits.

Getting SSDI benefits and returning to work

If you have already received SSDI payments the rules change a bit. Whether you are attempting to return to full-time work or you want to work part-time and get SSDI, it is important to first talk to the SSA and make sure you understand the ticket to work program.

The Trial Work Period Program can be a bit complicated, but basically if you earn at least $750 (gross earnings) or you are self-employed and you put in a minimum of 80 hours that month working in your own business you will trigger a “trial work month.” The trial work period is limited to nine months within a rolling 60-month period. Talk to the SSA if you are going to attempt to return to work.
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