The period of time between the onset of disability and your first Social Security check can be quite long, even if you’re approved the first time you apply. A common question that people have while they’re waiting for a decision is whether or not to work.
There’s not a clear cut answer here. If you continue working while you wait for the decision, it may give the appearance that you are not really disabled. But if you stop working simply for fear of not looking disabled enough, you could be stuck without an income for months or even years.
How working can affect your disability claim
While many people with disabilities are completely unable to work, this is not a requirement for receiving disability. Many people continue to work even after getting approved, without losing their benefits.
How working affects your eligibility depends which benefit program you’re receiving or applying for. SSI and SSDI each have a different set of rules.
SSI is a need-based program, so even if you aren’t working, you can be disqualified if you have cash or assets over $2000. And if you do work, your earnings can reduce your monthly payment immediately, and you may even have to repay benefits you’ve already received.
If you receive SSDI, you don’t have to worry as much about losing it, as long as you keep track of your earnings and report them to Social Security. Earnings over $1,220 are considered Substantial Gainful Activity, or SGA, and can affect your eligibility. But unlike SSI, you’re allowed a trial work period before eligibility is affected.
However, Social Security looks at your entire work record when making a decision, including your current job. If they see that you are working, they may question how severe your disability really is, especially if your job duties seem to contradict the specific impairments you’re claiming to have. And if you’re earning more than $1,220 a month, you’ll automatically be denied.
Staying afloat while you wait for a disability decision or hearing isn’t always easy. While working may be an option for some people, but it can have unexpected ramifications for others. Make the process easier for yourself, by consulting an experienced disability attorney like Katherine. For a free consultation, contact our office by phone, email, or text message. We can help you understand your options and decide which one is right for you.