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Working While Applying for Disability Benefits

If you are disabled to the point that you can no longer support yourself and have applied for Social Security disability benefits, you may be wondering if you can work at all and still hope for approval of your disability claim. Since this can be a complicated area, it is a good idea to assemble the following information regarding your income sources. Then spend a couple of hours conferring with a Social Security disability attorney or other professional advocate to see how this financial information may affect your application for benefits and follow his or her expert advice.

Here are some things to take into consideration:

  • Know what the current income limits are. The Social Security Administration (SSA) bases its approval of disability claims on several factors. One of those factors is whether or not the applicant is able to make a living. To make this determination, the Social Security Administration sets a maximum monthly income you may earn, called the SGA amount and still be eligible for disability benefits. SGA stands for “sustainable gainful activity”. The SSA takes the position that if you make more than this amount, you can support yourself. If you can support yourself, you are not eligible for disability benefits. In 2010, the SGA is a gross income of $1,000 per month. If you are blind, the SGA amount is $1,640 per month. This amount changes from year to year, so be sure to look up the current SGA online.
  • Know what is counted as income. Now that you know what the limit is, you need to know what else SSA includes in income. Certainly it includes income from the work you do, but did you know that it includes other passive incomes such as rent you receive, dividends and interest from stocks and bonds you own and gifts from relatives.

When you go to your meeting with the advocate of your choice, be sure to have this information ready. List every source of income you have and the amount you receive each month from each source. Make a list of all expenses that relate to your disability. These include everything from assistance devices to cab fare (if you are unable to drive).

While the SSA does allow a disability applicant to work if his or her income is below the SGA amount, it is a good idea to consult with your chosen attorney or advocate to determine whether working will be a hindrance or a help in your particular situation.

Remember that Social Security Disability officers are responsible for weeding out applicants who are able to earn a living, however modest, despite their disabling conditions. If the SSA finds that you can support yourself without the help of Social Security disability benefits, your application will be denied.