To be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits you must be unable to engage in a substantial gainful activity (SGA). This is a set dollar amount that changes every year, in 2021 SGA is $1,310 per month gross (before taxes are taken out). If you are earning less than SGA because of your disability, you may be able to receive Social Security disability payments, even though you are working.
Social Security has several special rules for work activity, including Trial Work Periods, Unsuccessful Work Attempts, Impairment-Related Work Expenses and the Ticket to Work Program. To make the most of your benefits and job opportunities it can be helpful to know what is available. Here is a look into what’s involved with Social Security disability benefits and the rules related to working while receiving social security disability benefits.
How do you know if you may be are eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits even though you are still working? :
If you are not currently receiving these benefits for a disability but would like to apply for them one place to start is by reviewing your recent paychecks. If your hours have been reduced due to your impairments, and you are now grossing less than $1,310 per month, it may be worthwhile to contact the Social Security Administration to apply.
To qualify for disability benefits your condition must limit your ability to do basic activities such as lifting, walking, sitting, standing, using your hands, concentrating, or remembering for at least 12 months. The Social Security administration has a list of medical conditions it considers to be significantly disabling for work purposes (the Listings). They also consider each disability on a claim by claim basis, and you may be disabled from a combination of impairments, even if your conditions do not meet a Listing.
To meet the SSA’s definition of disability, your impairments must prevent you from earning SGA for at least 12 months, so it is a good idea to talk with your medical care provider to assess how long your current limitations will last. You may also wish to contact a Social Security disability lawyer to help you decide whether determine if you should apply for Social Security disability benefits. Most attorneys who work in this field are happy to chat with you about your situation and do not charge you anything unless they help you win your disability case.
To apply for benefits you will need to fill out an application. This process has gotten much more accessible recently, and can be done on-line at ssa.gov.
Continuing to work while receiving benefits
Once you begin to receive Social Security disability benefits you may be able to continue working as long as you are making less than SGA. You may also be able to deduct certain impairment-related work expenses (IRWEs) from your earnings to help you continue to be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. For example, if you now need to take pay for special transportation services to get to work because you can no longer drive due to your impairments, the cost of this transportation can be deducted from the amount of your paycheck as an IRWE.
You will need to report all work related information regularly to the Social Security administration including the start and stop dates for any job, any changes in duties and hours worked on your job, and monthly wages and work-related expenses due to your current disability.
If you are currently on Social Security disability benefits and would like to return to work, you may be entitled to a trial work period (TWP). For up to 9 months, you may receive both your Social Security Disability check and your work income – even if it is over SGA levels. The most important thing to remember is to keep SSA in the loop, and report your income to them. They will apply the TWP rules, and if you can earn more than SGA for more than 9 months, you will have worked your way off disability and your benefits will end. That is a happy outcome that we wish for all our clients. The completed TWP is followed by a 3-year period of re-entitlement. If you have to stop working because of your impairments again after you have worked your way off disability, let SSA know and they should restart your benefits.
If you believe you may soon qualify for Social Security disability benefits but are still earning more than SGA, you should talk with the Social Security Administration Talk with a Social Security disability lawyer about your possibilities. Since you cannot generally receive Social Security Disability benefits while earning SGA, and there is a 5-month “waiting period” for benefits after you qualify, you will need a plan to cover your living expenses while waiting. Unfortunately, there is no effective way to pre-qualify.