Can I Work After Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits?
on Friday, 03 October 2014.
A common, and very difficult, question from individuals seeking Social Security Disability benefits is whether they can work while their claim is pending. Any work a claimant engages in will be considered by the Social Security Administration when determining if a claimant is disabled. The standard to be considered is whether a claimant is engaging in "substantial gainful activity".
The social security guidelines specifically state that "If you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity, we will find you are not disabled." Substantial is defined as work activity that involves doing significant physical or mental activities. Additionally, work is gainful when it is done for pay or profit even if you are not personally paid for the work so long as it is the kind/type of work that is normally done for pay or profit.
In order for work to be classified as substantial gainful activity, the earnings a claimant receives must exceed a certain amount as established by the Social Security Administration. If the Claimant's earnings exceed the substantial gainful activity amount set for the particular year, the Social Security Administration cannot find you disabled. Thus, a claimant who earns more in a month than the substantial gainful activity amount is barred from receiving benefits. Currently, the 2013 substantial gainful activity amount $1,040 for individuals with disabilities other than blindness and $1,740 for individuals who are blind.
It is important to keep in mind that even if a claimant's monthly earnings do not exceed the substantial gainful activity amount, the Social Security Administration will take into consideration any earnings a claimant has made after the alleged onset date of disability.
The social security guidelines specifically state that "the fact that your earnings were not substantial will not necessarily show that you are not able to do substantial gainful activity." It is unlikely that a claimant's minimal earnings will not play a major factor in the substantial gainful activity analysis. However, a situation that may arise and cause the Social Security Administration to determine a claimant is performing, or capable of performing, substantial gainful activity is when a claimant's monthly earnings are approaching the substantial gainful activity amount. This type of scenario lends itself to the argument that a claimant is intentionally under-performing work at a level to prevent their monthly earnings from exceeding the substantial gainful activity amount.
A claimant seeking Social Security Disability benefits should always be mindful of the amount of money they are earning as compared to the Social Security Administration's substantial gainful activity amount, but a claimant should also keep in mind that the Social Security Administration will consider all earnings and potential work after the alleged onset date of disability to determine the capability to perform substantial gainful activity. If you have any questions regarding how your work after your alleged onset date of disability will be used by the Social Security Administration, please contact the Finklea Law Firm to discuss this matter with our Social Security Disability Attorney.