The relationship between work activity and receiving SSA disability benefits is complex. In order to be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity ("SGA"). This amount nominally increases each year. In 2017, if a non-blind individual is earning $1170 gross per month on an ongoing basis, SSA's position is that the individual's conditions are not 'severe' enough to impact his or her ability to work. Keep in mind SSA is not setting an income amount that an individual can necessarily live off. The SGA income limit is intentionally low, because Congress intended SSA disability to be for individuals who are significantly impaired and unable to work.
There's a misconception that once a person has been declared disabled, they can never do any sort of paid work again or their benefits will be discontinued.
Due to the lengthy process involved in seeking Social Security benefits, many claimants will at some point attempt to return to work in either a full time or part time capacity. Social Security, in order to encourage claimants in job seeking has built in a number of rules to deal with different levels of work activity.
A prior posting on this blog explained the impact of earnings on your eligibility for Social Security benefits. To recap, a person who earns more than the SGA limit will likely be found ineligible for benefits under Social Security rules. However, impairment related work expenses (IRWE) allow a recipient or claimant for benefits to reduce their countable income.
Last month on our Minneapolis Social Security disability law blog, we had mentioned that the government recently decided to ease some of its requirements during the hiring process for disabled individuals who are looking to join or return to the workforce. The government has decided to do this in order to make it easier for folks with disabilities to apply for jobs and to also speed up the hiring process for disabled workers.
Disabilities and impairments suffered from an injury or illness may not always be permanent or prevent workers from ever being able to return to the workforce in Minnesota. Some physical or mental impairments may only severely affect workers for a few months or years. And in some cases, workers discover that there are other jobs they can do, even when they do suffer from serious injuries or medical conditions that may prevent them from returning to any of the previous jobs they held.
Do you think you could support two children and yourself by making only $9 per hour at a part-time job in Minneapolis? Even with inexpensive housing and cutting other costs like owning a car and going out to eat, making only $9 an hour at a part-time job may make it extremely challenging for families to make ends meet each month.
If you are disabled, it is possible to work while applying for Social Security disability or while already receiving payments, but rules and limitations apply. Ultimately, you must be determined eligible for disability benefits if you are to be successful in your claim.