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Work and applying for SSDI benefits?

With millions of workers applying for disability benefits each year it can months, if not years, to be awarded benefits. Unfortunately, most disability applicants have not saved up enough money to support themselves without working. Recently on our disability forum a worker asked, “If I need to apply for disability benefits can I keep working until I am approved?”


Work and SSDI benefits


The Social Security Administration has defined substantial gainful activity in 2015 as working and making more than $1,090 per month (The SGA amount is adjusted each year according to the current price/wage index).

SGA work, however, may include work which is not that “gainful,” which means that if you can work full-time, even if you are not receiving pay or profit, the SSA may consider you not disabled and will automatically deny your disability case. For example, if you are volunteering 40 hours per week but you are making less than $1,090 per month, the SSA may consider you not disabled because they would argue you have residual functional capacity to perform some type of work for profit. So whether or not you can keep working will depend on your income, which cannot be over the pre-determined limit, and the amount of hours you can work, regardless of your income.

What’s the bottom line? If you apply for disability and you are able to work and make $1,090 per month you will be automatically denied. BUT you may also be denied if you make less money if the SSA believes the work you are doing is “substantial.”

Do I have to wait 12 months to apply for SSDI benefits?


When you apply for disability benefits you cannot be performing substantial gainful activity but you must also have a condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months.

So what does this mean? It does NOT mean you have to wait for 12 months BEFORE applying for SSDI benefits. It only means that you have to have a condition which will last 12 continuous months. So although there is a five month waiting period to receive SSDI benefits, if you have a condition which will last 12 continuous months and you cannot work, it is important to apply for benefits as soon as you stop working at a substantial and gainful level.

If you are out of work for 12 months but return to work before you are awarded disability benefits this is also okay. In fact, you may be awarded benefits for the “closed period” or the period that you were not able to work.

Should I apply for SSDI benefits?


Whether or not to apply for SSDI benefits is a difficult decision. If you are able to work and perform substantial gainful activity you need to work. Do not apply for SSDI benefits if you can perform SGA work. Not only is this fraudulent, it bogs down the system for claimants who really need help.