CHAMBERS BENEFITS CONSULTING
Jacques Chambers, CLU
Benefits Consultant & Counselor
2658 Griffith Park Blvd. #290
Los Angeles, CA 90039-2520
It is excellent information that I was not aware of prior to the e-mail I received today.
This article is by Paul Proto in Florida.
Working while applying for Social Security Disability benefits – A person has to live.
The process required to obtain Social Security disability benefits can take a long time. The initial application can take 6 to 8 months for a decision. If denied the appeal, called a Request for Reconsideration, can take another 4 to 6 months. The percentage of cases granted at this level is only 18%. The next appeal, the Request for Hearing, can take another 18 months before the case is scheduled before an Administrative Law Judge. Over 70% of the decisions at the hearing level result in award of benefits. It pays to be persistent but the process can take years.
What can a claimant do for income while this process drags on? Most people are not aware that entitlement to Social Security disability benefits does not require total inability to earn income. Current guidelines allow a claimant to earn up to $980.00 in gross earnings and still be determined eligible. (http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/sga.html )
Many attorneys and advocates are hesitant to represent a claimant that is engaging in work activity. It adds issues that may appear to diminish the credibility of the claim. In order to overcome any negative impact it is necessary to provide earnings records from the employer that show that the earnings did not exceed the statutory limit of $980.00. Additionally, the work activity is examined to determine whether it demonstrates a capacity to perform full-time work. The work activity should be part-time and involve accommodations by the employer based on the claimant’s limitations. Given this type of flexible arrangement between the claimant and employer, part-time work is not a barrier to entitlement.
Another provision of the Social Security regulations allows for a claimant to engage in work activity for 6 months or less and earn in excess of the $980.00 limit. If the claimant’s work history includes work activity after onset, it is considered an “unsuccessful work attempt” regardless of monthly earnings, if the claimant ceased work activity within 6 months due to the alleged disability. The “unsuccessful work attempt” concept is contained in SSA regulations. If you are an employee, sections 404.1574(a)(1) and 416.974(a)(1) of the regulations state: “We generally consider work that you are forced to stop or to reduce below the substantial gainful activity level after a short time because of your impairment to be an unsuccessful work attempt. Your earnings from an unsuccessful work attempt will not show that you are able to do substantial gainful activity.” See also 404.1574(c) and 416.974(c). A Social Security Ruling discusses specific aspects of the work attempt that are required to be considered unsuccessful.
Duration and Conditions of Work
Work Effort of 3 Months or Less: Your work must have ended or have been reduced to the non-SGA level within 3 months due to your impairment or to the removal of special conditions related to your impairment that are essential to your further performance of work. (Examples of “special conditions” are given below.)
Work Effort of Between 3 and 6 Months: If your work lasted more than 3 months, it must have ended or have been reduced to the non-SGA level within 6 months due to your impairment or to the removal of special conditions (see below) related to your impairment that are essential to your further performance of work and:
You must have had frequent absences from your work due to your impairment; or
Your work must have been unsatisfactory due to your impairment; or
Your work must have been done during a period of temporary remission of your impairment; or
Your work must have been done under special conditions. (SSR 05-2)
These regulations determine how work activity performed after the alleged onset date will be considered by the Administrative Law Judge when the case is at the hearing level. It may take up to 2 years to get to a hearing. If a claimant has tried to work to earn money to survive, and that work activity is either below the “substantial gainful activity level” of $980.00 per month or the work activity meets the “unsuccessful work attempt” provisions, the claimant can still receive Social Security disability benefits for that period.
If an individual is in the process of applying for disability benefits, there are options available that allow him/her to earn income. This may provide enough money to survive a long eligibility process.
Author: Paul Proto
Paul Proto is an Examiner from Tampa Bay. You can see Paul's articles on Paul's Home Page