Can You Get Approved for Disability While Still Working? Your Questions Answered

The information in this article is current as of 10/7/2021 and does not constitute legal advice.

Are you dealing with a medical issue that affects your ability to work? Are you considering applying for disability as a result of this condition? If so, you may already know that the process of applying for disability can be complex and stressful, especially when debilitating health issues are involved.

Every day, workers who are contending with medical conditions that affect their ability to work ask themselves the big question: “Can you get approved for disability while still working?”

Keep reading to learn more about disability and whether you can still qualify while clocking in for work.

Disability Qualifications

Our guide will help you learn the basics about qualifying for Social Security disability benefits while still working. Before we get to that, though, we need to return to the more fundamental question: how do you qualify for disability in the first place?

This question is harder to answer than you might imagine. There isn’t a definitive list of conditions that automatically qualify someone for disability. Instead, you must apply for disability after having one or more medical conditions that keep you from performing work.

This is where the confusion comes in. Because qualifying for disability means proving that you have the condition(s) that keep you from performing work, most people assume that it is impossible to get disability benefits while still working.

But is this true? It’s only half true. Keep reading to discover the surprising truth behind working while on disability.

Can You Get Approved For Disability While Still Working?

Interestingly, the answer to this question is both “yes” and “no.”

Once you qualify for disability, you aren’t forbidden from working. Instead, the Social Security Administration sets a substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit that regulates how much money you earn each month.

What does this mean for you? In most cases, it means that you can be on disability and still work part-time. However, the Social Security Administration will pay close attention to how many hours you can work.

(To help save money while staying under the SGA, look into assistance programs for your bills.)

Limited Work Hours While On Disability

If you are trying to work while on disability, it’s important to be aware that the Social Security Administration is monitoring your income. In addition to making less than the SGA, it’s important to monitor how many hours you work each week because if you work too many hours, the SSA may determine that you are clearly able to work and therefore no longer qualify for disability.

So, how many hours per week are “too many” hours? Once more, there is not a magic number that the SSA offers to applicants. It’s up to you to track how many hours you work and your pay rate and to make sure that you stay within income limits.

How Work Impacts Your Disability

Now you know that it is possible to work at least part-time while on disability. But do you know whether or not doing so will disrupt your disability benefits?

The truth is that whether or not things get disrupted depends on the disability benefits you are receiving. For example, if you receive  Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you can work under the SGA as much as you want. You can earn more than the SGA for a nine-month initial trial period, but if you continue to earn more than the limit, you may lose benefits entirely.

It’s a bit different if you are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSI offers a similar trial period, and you can similarly lose benefits entirely if you earn more than the SGA after the trial is over. But your SSI payment is also reduced by $1 for every $2 that you earn, which occurs both during and after the trial period.

What does this mean for you? If you are on SSDI benefits, you need to stay under the SGA. But if you are on SSI benefits, you may need to strongly consider whether it is worth staying at your job when every dollar you earn is effectively cut in half.

Is There Any Way Around the SGA Limit?

By now, you’ve probably figured out that the SGA is the main factor when it comes to getting disability benefits and still going to work. But is there any way around the SGA limit? Once again, the answer is both “yes and “no.”

In some instances, employers may subsidize the pay of disabled employees. In other words, the employees may receive pay worth more than the actual work they are doing. In these cases, you can have the SSA speak to your employer and analyze the situation.

While this is entirely up to the Social Security Administration, they may review your situation and determine that the actual worth of what you earn is far less than the amount that you earn. Therefore, with the blessing of the SSA, you may be able to receive both disability benefits as well as the total amount of your typical paycheck.

Of course, this is relatively rare. If you are making below the SGA, you may wish to look into affordable housing even once you qualify for disability.

Is Applying For Disability While Working Risky?

The unspoken truth behind much of this process is that appearances matter quite a bit. What you do and how much you earn can significantly affect how your disability looks to the SSA and determine whether you qualify for benefits. With that in mind, many potential applicants wonder if they are taking a risk by applying for disability while still working.

Once more, there is no one size fits all answer. It may take two or three years after you apply to receive a verdict on whether you qualify. And it is up to individual claims representatives and judges to review your case and ultimately make the decision.

With that in mind, you can improve your chances by earning less than the SGA and working less than 32 hours per week. If you are earning more and working more, the powers that be may later determine that you have no difficulties working full-time with a disability and deny you benefits.

Will My Employer Know If I File For Disability?

If you are currently working and planning on applying for disability, you probably have a simple question. Will your employer know that you have applied for disability? The short answer to this question is “maybe.”

The disability examiner who analyzes your case will review your past and current work and see how it aligns with your disability. And in the course of their investigation, the examiner may contact previous and current employers.

This may result in them contacting your employer and your employer discussing it with you. To mitigate any awkwardness, it may be worth mentioning to your employer that you have applied (so long as you feel comfortable doing so), and it may be worth emphasizing that it could be years before you are approved or disapproved.

Keep Your SSA Status Current

Right now, you are likely focused on qualifying for disability. But even if you approve, you should know that the SSA will continue to monitor your work status. But how, exactly, are they going to get the information that they need?

The short answer is that you are obligated to inform the SSA about any changes to your work status. Should that happen, you will need to notify the SSA via phone, mail, or visiting an office in person.

In addition to your work status, the SSA wants to know about other significant life changes as well. This includes moving, getting a pension, becoming a parent, leaving the country, receiving other benefits, and other conditions.

Even after qualifying for disability, you are going to need to stay in touch with the SSA. And whether or not you are working part-time, it is essential to keep them in the loop if there are any significant changes in your life.

Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service

If you qualify for federal disability benefits, you also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that makes it possible for low-income consumers to receive access to free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.

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