Can I work and pursue my disability case?
Yes. If you feel you are able to work, then you should test your capabilities and try to work. It is vitally important to be honest about what you can and cannot do. Social Security allows disability applicants to work without ending their claim. However, there are rules that determine to what extent work activity will impact your disability case.
If I want to test my work ability, what am I allowed to do?
You should do whatever you think you are safely capable of doing. There are no rules on the types of jobs you perform or how many hours you work. The rules are concerned with the income generated from your work activity.
What are the rules on work activity and income?
Every year, Social Security sets a limit on how much you can earn before your earnings have a significant impact on your claim. This limit applies to everyone, and it applies to your earnings before taxes or garnishments. Once your earnings go over Social Security’s statutory limit, Social Security will determine that your work is “substantial gainful activity,” or “SGA” for short. SGA is important because it is the very first thing Social Security looks for when evaluating your claim. They look for SGA even before they consider your medical impairments. If your earnings fall below the SGA limit, then Social Security will consider the rest of your claim. However, Social Security’s general rule is that once you work at or above SGA-levels for 6 or more consecutive months, they will not consider the rest of your claim, and the claim will be denied because you have demonstrated an ability to perform substantial gainful activity for an extended period of time. You should let us know immediately about any work activity you engage in so we can remain updated about your case and keep you fully informed of your rights.
What is the “statutory limit” for earnings? What is the limit for SGA?
The limit changes depending on the year and cost of living adjustments. In 2015, the SGA limit was $1,090 per month. In 2016, the SGA limit was $1,130 per month, and in 2017, the limit is $1,170 per month. Again, these amounts and limits apply to your income before taxes and garnishments.
Do these limits apply to self-employment income?
Yes, these limits apply to self-employment and income from owning a business. If you are self-employed or a business owner, please contact us. Documentation of your work and earnings is very important to your claim in these situations.
How would Social Security know about my work? Wouldn’t I have to tell them or give them paystubs?
Social Security has access to your earnings information through the IRS. If you received a W-2 from an employer, that employer reported your quarterly and yearly income to the IRS. If you filed an income tax return, that information is also available through the IRS. If you worked “off the books,” your earnings information would not be accessible through the IRS; however, this work is still relevant to your claim. If you work “off the books” while your disability claim is pending, inform us immediately. This kind of work activity can have a significant impact on your claim and it is best if you discuss the situation with a professional so you understand your rights and obligations.
Can I do volunteer work?
Yes. As stated before, you should do whatever you think you are safely capable of doing. However, volunteering is not generally considered “work activity” because it is not done for pay or profit.
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