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Working why can't I get SSDI benefits?

Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “I have severe diabetes, I am overweight and I need to quit work but I can’t. Can I get SSDI benefits while I work and then quit work when they are approved?”


This question is one of the most common questions asked by SSDI applicants, many of which depend on their weekly paycheck to pay for necessities such as food, shelter, clothing and transportation. Unfortunately, there is another consideration which many claimants may not even realize which can make the problem even more acute: getting SSDI benefits is not guaranteed and could take up to 2 years.

Why you cannot be working and apply for SSDI benefits

So why does the SSA care whether you are working when you apply for SSDI benefits?

The real issue is whether or not you are considered “disabled” by the SSA. Let’s take a look at that question. First, to be considered disabled you must have a severe health condition which is expected to last at least 12 continuous months. You also must have enough work credits to be considered insured for SSDI, and you must not be working or performing what the SSA considers substantial gainful activity.

While you may be able to prove that your condition is severe and long-lasting, and you probably have enough work credits for SSDI if you have been working consistently over the last 10 to 20 years, if you are currently working and earning $1,130, the SSA will assume that you are able to engage in what they consider “competitive employment in the national economy” and you are therefore not disabled.

If you have a high paying job but you are working very part-time, however, you might be able to prove your work is not SGA if you can prove that your income would have been lower if not for special assistance, irregular hours, special equipment, or other special circumstances. If you believe this describes you, you can discuss your case with the SSA.

Income, however, is not the only factor to consider when determining if you are performing substantial gainful activity. Work can not only be gainful, it can also be substantial, which means if you are performing volunteer work or any other nonpaying work too many hours per week the SSA could also find you not disabled.

What are my options?

As mentioned above, if not working is absolutely not an option and you are making too much money or working full-time, you will never be approved for SSDI benefits. Unfortunately, this can put many disability applicants in a very difficult predicament with many disability applicants struggling to work each day.

If this sounds like you, your best option may be to look towards the future and start to save all the money you can in anticipation of not working. Then when you have accumulated enough money that you can survive for six months to a year you can quit work and apply for SSDI benefits.

While you are waiting it is also important that you go to your doctor and talk to them about your plans to apply for SSDI benefits. While your doctor will not help you complete the SSDI application, they can help you accumulate the right medical evidence to prove you are disabled.

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