In general, if you work and earn more than $1,170 per month, you will not qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Even if you earn less than this amount, working part time during the disability determination process can jeopardize your claim. There are some situations where you can work part time, but not full time, and receive disability benefits. That is why you may want to discuss your options with a disability attorney before applying for benefits.
If you have questions or concerns about your SSD claim or if you received a letter of denial, the attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group are here to help. Call us today at 865-546-1111 to schedule your free consultation.
What is the definition of “disabled”?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines a disability as something that prevents you from working and earning a substantial gainful wage. All impairments that qualify are total, long-term disabilities. The SSA does not offer benefits for impairments that last less than a year or are partial in nature. As you can see, this strict definition rules out many people who work a traditional part-time job.
In general, you may fit the Social Security definition of disabled if you:
- Can no longer complete the tasks necessary at your previous job;
- Cannot engage in other gainful work because of your impairments; and
- Have an impairment that will likely last a year or longer or cause your death.
How do the earning limits affect my ability to work a part-time job and qualify for SSD?
A primary tenet of the SSD program is that, in order to qualify, you must not be able to earn enough money to support your family. If you are able to earn enough money, the SSA will determine you are capable of substantial gainful activity (SGA). Each year, the SSA puts a cap on how much you can earn per month and still qualify for disability benefits.
For 2017, this cap is $1,170 per month for most people. Those who are blind have a higher cap. In addition, you may be able to subtract some expenses from your gross earnings if you have to invest in any special tools or services for work because of your impairment. This means if you earn $1,200 a month but spend $50 on handicap-accessible transportation to work, you would remain under the cap.
How could my part-time job hurt my claim for SSD benefits?
While you can theoretically qualify for benefits like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) while working limited part-time hours, this is often a precarious situation that could put your claim in jeopardy. To qualify for disability benefits, your injury, illness, or impairment must prevent you from doing work-related tasks.
If your medical condition meets the criteria under one or more of the SSA’s impairment listings and you have the evidence in your medical records to prove it, your part-time job may not pose a problem.
Missing documentation or not fully meeting these criteria, however, means you need to qualify based on your inability to do specific job-related tasks. The SSA calls this residual functional capacity. The tasks assessed may include basic actions like walking, sitting, standing, and lifting. If you can do these things at your part-time job, it may be more difficult to prove you cannot do them long enough to earn a gainful wage.
Even if you cannot do your previous job, the SSA will look at your education, age, experience, and other related skills to determine if there is other work you can do. Your part-time job could provide them with a lead on the type of work you are capable of, causing them to deny your claim even if you never approach the SGA cap.
Can I go back to work after I begin receiving disability benefits?
The goal of disability is to bridge the gap until recipients can either return to work or reach retirement age. To this end, the SSA offers opportunities for those drawing benefits to return to work.
This trial work period allows you to continue to collect benefits while you attempt to return to work. This may let you to earn a part-time wage while also getting benefits. It is important, however, to work with the SSA when doing this and to report all income as required.
How can a disability attorney help me get the benefits I deserve?
Securing the SSD benefits you qualify for is not always as easy as it should be. You do not want to do anything that might cause the SSA to deny your claim, leading to a lengthy appeals process and a delay in getting the money you need.
If you are working part time and considering filing for disability benefits, you should discuss your situation with a skilled attorney. At the Disability Advantage Group, we can help you determine if you qualify for disability benefits and ensure you are presenting the best possible case for approval. Call us today at 865-546-1111 to learn more.