Social Security Disability and Part Time Work
Attorneys Ginsberg and Stasiuk, who both have excellent blogs and provide insightful and useful information (look for them both on the blogroll) have both recently commented on the topic of social security disability and working part time.
Here's my own input on the subject, based on my own subjective experience and observations.
Though you are certainly allowed to work while filing for disability, as long as your earnings do not exceed the year's limit for SGA, or substantial gainful activity (in most cases, this will mean part time work), doing so tends to throw up a red flag to disability adjudicators. A couple questions that arise when part time work is seen in a case are:
1) Is the claimant able to work more than the current amount of hours being worked---or is the claimant's current work earnings less than the allowable maximum (SGA) simply because those hours were reduced by either A) the claimant or B) the claimant's employer.
2) If the claimant is filing for disability on the basis of a mental impairment, does the ability to maintain sustained employment, even if part time, detract from the position that the claimant is disabled according to social security disability criteria. Such criteria is rooted in an individual's ability to engage in normal daily activities (going to work on a regular basis and performing specified job functions on a regular basis are fairly normal daily activities).
And, of course, there is another issue which does not seem to receive much mention when the subject of part time work and applying for, or receiving, disability comes up. And that issue is...overpayments. I've interacted with more disability claimants than I can count who applied for disability or received disability and did the following: A) went back to work, B) thought they had "sufficiently relayed" this information to social security and then C) found their benefits cutoff along with also receiving an overpayment determination.
In some of those cases, I'm sure that the claimant did not "sufficiently relay" their work activity to social security, but in other cases, I am sure that they did and social security simply dropped the ball (this happens a LOT). Which matters not, of course, if you wind up with a benefit cessation and an overpayment (even worse, if you receive SSI disability and you end up losing access to medicaid benefits during this period).
And...there's another issue that makes part time work sticky, particularly for individuals who are already receiving disability. There is such a thing as a work CDR (a continuing disability review triggered by work activity), meaning that even if you go back to work part time and your earnings periodically exceed the SGA limit that has been set for that year, your work activity--though the risk is probably low according to claims reps I've spoken with--may trigger a review of your claim (this is assuming, of course, that you have also not exhausted your trial work months--if you have, then going over the SGA limit will cease your benefits).
If that happens, there is always the possiblity that your benefits may be halted. This becomes even more precarious if your benefits were granted on the basis of a mental impairment and you are now engaged in regular, recurring work activity (for me, this brings to mind the phrase "concentration, persistence, and pace").
Should you work part time while you file for, or receive, social security disability or SSI? In many situations, claimants will simply be forced to do...what they must to survive. But be aware that there are risks and, right or wrong, engaging in work activity throws up red flags for disability claim decision makers.
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