When an application for disability benefits goes to hearing, the Social Security Administration pulls a copy of your IRS records that shows past employers and how much they’ve paid you over the years.
On these reports, it’s not uncommon to see a claimant has made some money – often a small amount – reported as self-employment since they say they have become disabled.
However, when I, or a judge ask them about this, they’ll say they haven’t done any work at all since filing their claim.
This is usually not an attempt to conceal the work, it’s just that many people get confused about what constitutes a past job.
Under Social Security’s rules, it doesn’t matter whether your income came from self-employment or being employed by someone else, either type of job can be considered past relevant work in the course of a disability claim.
The bigger issue is actually how much you made performing that work, and how often you performed that job.
For example, if you made a few hundred dollars a month in self-employment income babysitting or braiding hair, this would not be considered past work. However, if you made a couple thousand dollars a month performing this exact same job for just six months, an administrative law judge absolutely could find it was past relevant work, and it could have a substantial impact on your disability claim.
The issue of when a job counts as past relevant work is an especially thorny one, and one that often warrants a lengthy discussion with a disability attorney.