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Can I Apply for Social Security Disability If I Am Working?

Social Security Disability is based on the principle that individuals should receive some financial assistance if they:

  • have an injury or illness that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death, and
  • are unable to perform their prior work or adapt to other work.

If you are working and earning income while applying for Social Security Disability, then the Social Security Administration will consider whether you are capable of “substantial gainful activity” or SGA. Under current (May 2014) Social Security law, you are presumed capable of SGA if you are able to work and earn at least $1,070 per month (or $1,800 per month if you are blind). SGA involves doing significant physical and/or mental activities for pay or profit. SGA can include part time work.

In determining whether your work qualifies as SGA, the Social Security Administration will consider numerous factors such as your income earning ability, the type of work that you are doing, whether you require assistance or special equipment to perform tasks, your need to take frequent breaks or rest, the extent of accommodation by a friendly employer, whether you are allowed to work irregular or fewer hours, or produce less work than other workers.

You may apply for Social Security Disability at any time when you are no longer able to work if there is a reasonable expectation that you will be unable to work full-time for at least the next 12 months and your employment income falls below the amount allowed for SGA.

In some circumstances, a disability claimant may have a skill or hobby, such as selling items on eBay, that allows them to make an effort to earn money, but due to their injury or illness, they are unable to work a regular job under normal circumstances. Most people would prefer to work and be productive. If you are working while you are applying for Social Security Disability, this employment may negatively impact your ability to be approved for benefits because it presents a greater challenge to prove that you are not capable of SGA. You should consult an experience lawyer for advice on the tricky and confusing topics of SGA, work, and disability.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on Federal and North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.