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How Will Attempting to Work Part-Time Impact my Potential Security Disability Claim?

When filing for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI), it’s important to understand how attempting to work part-time can affect one’s applications. Any ethical Social Security lawyer should inform you that it’s always in your best interest to work, and to work as much as possible. Showing the Social Security Administration (SSA) that one is attempting to work will always prove beneficial to a claimant down the road should their claim be wrongfully denied.

When filing a Social Security disability claim, the question that is presented to the Social Security Administration (SSA) is whether the disability claimant remains disabled from performing gainful employment and is likely to remain so disabled for what will be twelve (12) months or longer. In looking at the employment, SSA will look to see whether the individual is capable of working on a regular and continuing basis, performing duties for which one would ordinarily be compensated, and showing an ability to earn $1310 per month (in 2021) of what is deemed to be substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Thus, if one is working on a part-time basis, the first question for SSA will to see is if in fact they are earning $1310.00 per month. Showing that one is presently working part-time and earning $1310.00 per month would cause SSA to deny one’s claim initially, finding that they are denied at step 1 of the 5 step sequential evaluation given they are earning what is deemed SGA level wages. Thus, one can be working on a part-time basis (for example, working 30 hours a week, making $12/hour) and be denied on their initial claim, summarily, as they are not disabled from earning gainful wages. And yet, simply reducing one’s hours below SGA levels (that is, working 20 hours per week and making $12/hour instead), does not guarantee that SSA would find one disabled from earning SGA. SSA would look to see if based on one’s condition one might remain capable of working a few more hours at that job, or perhaps at a different job which is more conducive to one’s condition, and a job for which one would be deemed reasonably suited by age, education and experience. For instance, assuming one has a back condition that is plaguing them and they are attempting to continue working at a very physical job that requires heavy lifting and being on their feet all day, SSA may look to see the extent whether the individual might be physically capable of working a light industrial job such as a machine operator or assembler, which would be much less physically demanding

The Social Security rules likewise take into account the fact that there may be times where one experiences a temporary remission of one’s medical condition that allows for an increase in one’s hours above SGA levels. Such a circumstance requires a close look at what are called the “unsuccessful work attempt rules.” These rules provide, in summary, that assuming one’s disabling condition has required a reduction of earnings below gainful levels for longer than a month (and thus, has satisfied what is thereby deemed to be an initial period of disability), if one’s return to gainful levels falls short of six (6) months because of either their disabling condition or the removal of special conditions that allowed one to work at a gainful level, then the return to gainful levels would be called an unsuccessful work attempt. This attempt at gainful level work would not interrupt the 12 month duration requirement of the disability rules and would allow for a finding of disability assuming, ultimately, one is found to remain incapable of returning to ongoing, SGA level earnings for what is longer than twelve (12) months.

Likewise, assuming one remains disabled for longer than a year and becomes entitled to Social Security disability benefits, then one would then be deemed entitled to test working through what is called a trial work period for 9 months (with earnings of $940.00 per month deemed to use up one of these trial work period months).

Finally, it’s important to understand that any earnings through part-timework are likewise considered earnings for purposes of resources that might reduce the amount one may be entitled to receive in Supplemental Security Income.

For specific answers as to how your part-time wages might affect your potential Social Security disability claims contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622.