I am asked questions about this a LOT. With the wait time of approximately two years from the date of filing an application to the time of a hearing on the claim, lots of people who have filed for Social Security Disability benefits ask me about working. The general rule is that for 2014 if you make $1070.00 or more per month before taxes, insurance, or anything else is taken out you are NOT eligible to even apply for Social Security Disability benefits. This amount changes each year. You can reduce the amount of your earnings by something called Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE). These expenses include out-of-pocket costs for items that you must take or use in order to be able to work. It can include things like medications, medical supplies or devices, including service animals, bandages, and syringes.
Another way a person may work and apply for Social Security Disability benefits is if you have returned to work for three months or less and have to stop again because of your disability. Social Security calls this an unsuccessful work attempt (UWA). Again, in most instances it has to be for three months or less, and stops because of the your disability, NOT because you aren’t getting enough hours; don’t like the job; too far to drive, etc.
Here is THE WARNING: Even if you are making less than $1070 per month, there are some judges who will hear your claim that will not like the fact that you are working at all. They may feel that you could work a few hours more and not be on disability benefits at all. They may have a hard time believing that you can only work part-time. Although allowed by the Social Security Administration, there are also judges who do not recognize unsuccessful work attempts. They may find you disabled, but may say your disability began after you stopped working.
Many lawyers will tell their clients that they can’t work while waiting to see if they are approved on their Social Security Disability claims. However, I know that clients who have filed for Social Security Disability benefits face severe financial hardship while waiting for their disability claims to be processed. After explaining the above, I generally tell them to do what they have to do and we will deal with the consequences. This may very well mean that we have to change the date the clients say their disability began which can mean they will receive less money for their backpay.
If you’re filing for Social Security Disability benefits it’s crucial that you hire an attorney WELL BEFORE your hearing so he or she has time to develop the necessary information about any work attempts since you filed for benefits. Please feel free to call me or complete the contact form on this site.