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Full-Time Work and the Eligibility Puzzle of Social Security Disability

Updated: May 14

Navigating the complexities of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding how working affects your eligibility. This comprehensive guide aims to elucidate the nuances of working while applying for or receiving SSD benefits.

Understanding Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

What is SGA? The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines Substantial Gainful Activity as work that brings in over a certain monthly income. This income threshold is $1,550 for non-blind individuals and $2,590 for blind individuals as of 2024. Earning more than these amounts can signify to the SSA that an individual is capable of substantial and gainful employment, thereby affecting their eligibility for disability benefits.

The Impact of Earnings on SSD Eligibility Earning above the SGA limit can lead the SSA to determine that you're not disabled according to their standards. This assessment is based on the premise that substantial earnings reflect an ability to engage in competitive employment.

The Criteria of Inability to Work

Demonstrating Disability To be eligible for SSD benefits, applicants must demonstrate that they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment. The impairment must be expected to result in death or has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Contradiction of Part-Time Work While engaging in even part-time work while applying for SSD benefits can be seem to support the claim of being unable to work Full-Time; it raises questions about the severity of your disability and your capacity to perform work-related activities. Even if your earnings are below the SGA level, the fact that you are working part-time can be a significant factor in the SSA's evaluation of your claim.

The Presumption of Ability to Work

Perception of Capability If you're working part-time, the SSA may presume that you possess the physical and mental capabilities necessary for gainful employment. This presumption can be detrimental to your disability claim, as it suggests that you might not meet the SSA's definition of disabled.

You must remember that satisfying the technical requirement of staying under the allowed amount is not enough. Social Security is also evaluating your ability to earn that amount of money. So if you work Part-Time and earn, for example $1400 a month, Social Security may make a decision you have the capacity to earn the other $150 to equal $1550 and then therefore find you not disabled.

Periodic Medical Review and Full-Time Work

SSA's Continuing Disability Reviews Beneficiaries of SSD undergo periodic reviews to determine if their medical condition has improved to the point where they can return to work. If you are found to be working full-time, especially in a role similar to what you had before your disability, it could indicate to the SSA that your condition has improved, potentially leading to a cessation of benefits.

Maintaining Credible Medical Evidence

Consistency with Medical Records Your medical documentation plays a crucial role in your disability claim. Full-time work might conflict with the limitations and impairments described in your medical records, thereby affecting the credibility and consistency of your claim. The SSA examines your medical history, treatments, limitations, and ability to function when making a disability determination.

Working While Your Application is Pending

Earnings Below the SGA Threshold Working while your application is pending doesn't necessarily disqualify you from receiving SSD benefits, as long as your earnings are below the SGA threshold. However, it's important to note that sustained work above this limit may affect your eligibility.

The Concept of Unsuccessful Work Attempt If you earn more than the SGA amount for a short period (less than 6 months), the SSA may consider this an unsuccessful work attempt. Such attempts demonstrate that despite attempting to work, your disabling condition prevented you from maintaining substantial and gainful employment.

Evaluation of Work Activity The SSA takes into account all work activity when assessing your claim. This includes your work history, the nature of your work, and earnings. They also consider how your work activity relates to your medical condition and whether it suggests an ability to engage in more substantial work.

No Guarantee of Disability Determination

Applying for SSD benefits does not guarantee a finding of disability. Each case is evaluated on its own merits, and the outcome can vary widely based on individual circumstances. It's essential to provide comprehensive and accurate information about your medical condition, work history, and any work activity while your application is pending.


Navigating the impact of work on SSD eligibility requires a careful balancing act. Understanding the SGA limit, the presumption of ability to work, and the importance of maintaining credible medical evidence are all crucial components. If you're considering or currently working while applying for SSD benefits, it's essential to stay informed about these factors and consult with a professional who can guide you through the process, ensuring that you make informed decisions about your work activity and its potential impact on your SSD benefits claim.

©2023 Noel Anschutz / Professional Advocates, Inc.

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