Often, I speak with clients who after applying for disability have returned to work and insist that they’re done with their claim, there’s no way they’ll be approved, and they just want to withdraw their application.
While withdrawing an application can be the right thing to do in some scenarios, in many cases, it’s possible, and indeed quite beneficial to move forward with a disability case even if you’ve returned to work full-time.
The first thing to keep in mind is that to be found disabled, Social Security requires that you be off-work, or make less than substantial gainful activity ($1,470 a month pre-tax for nonblind individuals in 2023) for at least 12 consecutive months.
If you’re only off work for those 12 months, you can request a closed period of disability, in which case you can receive a lump sum of backpay for the time you weren’t working, you just won’t receive ongoing monthly benefits.
Even some of the tougher administrative law judges in the Social Security Administration tend to look favorably on closed periods since it won’t mean an individual could potentially receive disability benefits for decades to come.
Another situation that arises is if someone returns to work full-time just before a hearing after they’ve been off work for more than 12 months, sometimes a judge will approve a trial work period. In this scenario, you actually will be approved for ongoing benefits that will continue if you stop working. However, if you are able to continue working, the disability benefits will cease, though they can be more easily reinstated for some time after.
Returning to work full-time certainly complicates a disability case, but doesn’t necessarily end it, so it’s important to discuss your specific situation with a disability attorney.