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SSDI - Looking for work, will this hurt my chances?

Can I work?


Many disability applicants want to continue working. No one wants to be disabled. Recently, on our disability forum we had a user ask, “How will looking for full-time work hurt my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application?” This is a great question, but it goes to the very heart of what it means to be disabled, according to the Social Security Administration, and indicates that this disability applicant does not understand the definition of disability.


What does the SSA consider disabled?


The SSA has a very specific process for determining if you are disabled. This process is called the sequential evaluation process, which is basically a series of five questions. The very first question in this process is, “Are you engaged in "substantial gainful activity"?” If you are working too much or making too much money you would be automatically denied SSDI benefits, regardless of the severity of your condition.

But what if you are not working but you can work? You might get past the first step in the sequential evaluation process, but you will not get passed the third which asks, “Can you perform the work you performed in the past?” or the fourth which asks, “Can you be retrained for new work?”

What does this mean if you are looking for full-time work? It means the fact that you are out looking for work will be evidence that you think you can perform work and the Social Security Administration will consider you automatically not disabled.

Does this mean they will automatically deny your SSDI case? Yes, in fact, depending on your condition, they might make this decision before they even pull your medical records.

What if you are working when you apply for SSDI benefits?


When the SSA is evaluating your case they will determine if you are performing substantial gainful activity. If you are working full-time your work will be considered “substantial” and you will be denied. If you are making too much money, which in 2012 is $1,010 and for statutorily blind individuals it is $1,690, than your work will be considered gainful and you will be automatically denied.

Can you work part-time? Potentially, although it is likely that if you work too much, even if it is not gainful or substantial, the SSA may argue that you have the ability to work just a little bit more and deny your case.

So what’s the bottom line?


If you are looking for full-time work you are not disabled. The bottom line is do not bother applying for SSDI benefits. There are over 3 million disability applicants each year and it is important that if you do not meet the basic requirements that you DO NOT apply and waste the valuable resources and time of the Social Security Administration.

Can a lawyer help me?

If you are working or looking for work a disability lawyer most likely will not help you. Why? They know that your case is likely to be denied because the SSA will assume you are not disabled if you can work.
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