Getting Social Security disability benefits even though you are working

Getting Social Security disability benefits even though you are working

Fayetteville and other Arkansas disability clients who are working, or who have the opportunity to work part-time, are often concerned that working will make them ineligible for Social Security disability benefits.

Arkansas Social Security Disability Benefits AttorneyAlthough working does raise some extra issues for a disability claimant to deal with, it does not necessarily disqualify you from winning disability benefits because a working claimant can still be found “disabled” under certain circumstances.

The difference with your claim if you are working is that the Social Security Administration will conduct an inquiry into the type of work that you are doing and the amount that you are earning.

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits the work must not be “substantial gainful activity”

If you are working, the key question regarding your work is whether it constitutes “substantial gainful activity.” This issue arises at the first step of the Social Security Administration’s five-step sequential evaluation process. If your work is considered to be “substantial gainful activity” then the Social Security Administration will conclude that you are not disabled.

The determination of whether or not work is substantial gainful activity requires an analysis of the definition of that phrase according to the regulations of the Social Security Administration. That definition is somewhat complex, and requires breaking the phrase down into two important parts so that the work activity must be both “substantial” and “gainful.”

However, substantial gainful activity can generally be considered any work that involves significant physical or mental activities in a work setting that is usually done for pay or profit.

The type of work that you do matters to the Social Security Administration

In many situations, working part-time at something that is consistent with your disability claim can even be helpful because it can demonstrate what you can do, and what you cannot do. However, the nature of your job must be consistent with your claim. There are some work situations that undermine your credibility with the Social Security Administration and therefore end up disqualifying you for disability benefits.

For example, the Social Security Administration says that if you are under the age of 50, then to be considered disabled you must prove that you cannot do a wide range of sedentary work. But if you have a part-time heavy job, then your work makes it difficult to prove your claim. In this situation, the Social Security Administration will be asking how you can have the capacity to do a heavy job part-time but cannot do a sedentary full-time job. Even if your earnings are not at the “gainful” level, the work itself seems to be so inconsistent with your claim that the Social Security Administration will probably deny disability benefits.

You may still get Social Security disability benefits for a closed period of disability

Even if you are working at the substantial gainful activity level, it is possible to be eligible for benefits for what the Social Security Administration refers to as a “closed period of disability.” The issue for this situation is whether your impairment met the 12-month duration requirement. To meet the duration requirement, your past impairment cannot have improved to the point that you were capable of substantial gainful activity, and you cannot have actually returned to substantial gainful activity before 12 months from the date of onset of the disability.

Here is an example: a 52-year-old man with a work history of heavy and unskilled work is now limited to sedentary work because of a problem with his back. However, he was off work for a full year because of his impairment before he was able to start his part-time unskilled sedentary job. In this new job he is earning an amount that qualifies as substantial gainful activity so he is no longer considered disabled. Nevertheless, the Social Security Administration’s medical-vocational guidelines require that he be found disabled for the year that he was not working because he met the duration requirement at that time. Thus, although he is no longer eligible for disability benefits, he is eligible for benefits for the closed period of disability.

Find a Fayetteville disability lawyer to help you with your Social Security disability claim

Dealing with the many different rules of the Social Security Administration can be confusing and frustrating. If you are working there are many different situations that affect your eligibility for disability benefits. To give your claim the best chance of success, consider getting advice from an experienced Arkansas Social Security disability lawyer.

If you are not already represented by an Arkansas Social Security disability lawyer, consider asking for my evaluation of your claim. Give me a brief description of your claim using the form at the top of this page, or you may e-mail or call my office at:

Greg Thurman
Fayetteville Social Security disability attorney


Thurman & Flanagin
1148 E. Stearns
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701

105A Passion Play Road
Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632