The rising cost of living is the hot topic in today’s economy. In June 2022, inflation accelerated to 9.1 percent, the highest since November of 1981. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for food at home rose 11.0 percent over the last 12 months, which is the largest 12-month increase since April 1979. Energy prices rose 34.6 percent over the past 12 months, and gasoline prices rose a whopping 48.7 percent over the past 12 months. These skyrocketing costs are even more difficult to manage when you are struggling to work due to your medical conditions and have applied for Social Security Disability benefits.
If you are in this situation, you may wonder what your options are and whether you are able to perform any work while waiting for Social Security to approve your case. The attorneys at LaBovick Law Group have worked with hundreds of individuals in this situation and are able to provide guidance on what you can do while Social Security processes your claim.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security Disability Insurance is a federally administered program for people who are unable to perform normal work activity due to a medical condition that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, one must have worked and paid taxes on their earnings for at least five of the last ten years.
Substantial Gainful Activity
Social Security follows a sequential evaluation process when determining whether a person is considered “disabled” as defined by the Social Security Act. During the first step, Social Security will determine whether the person has engaged in “substantial gainful activity” since their date of disability, referred to as the alleged onset date. A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount is considered to be engaging in substantial gainful activity. This amount is updated on an annual basis.
In 2022, the most that one can earn and remain eligible for Social Security disability benefits is $1350 per month in gross pay – that is, your monthly income before taxes or other deductions are applied. Note that the number of hours that a person works per week or per month does not change whether a person is considered to be engaging in substantial gainful activity. For example, if you are only working 20 hours per week but are paid $20 per hour, you are still considered to be engaging in a substantial gainful activity because your monthly earnings exceed $1350 in gross pay.
Work activity is considered to be gainful if it is the kind of work that is usually done for pay. Therefore, activities such as self-care, household tasks, unpaid training, hobbies, therapy, school attendance, clubs, and social programs are not generally considered to be substantial gainful activities. However, Social Security may look at your ability to perform these other activities when assessing your capacity to perform certain physical or mental activities.
Can I work part-time after my onset date?
You can continue to work on a part-time basis after your alleged onset date (the date when you became disabled), as long as those earnings fall below substantial gainful activity levels. However, it is important to note that the type of work that you do may be used to support a finding that there is other work that you could do on a full-time basis. For example, if you are working a very physically strenuous job on a part-time basis with earnings under a substantial gainful activity level, Social Security may find that you could perform less strenuous sit-down work on a full-time basis, even if you have not done that activity before.
This is particularly true if you were under the age of 50 on the date that you became disabled. If your current manager is aware of your medical conditions and is providing you with accommodations, it is helpful to have a statement in writing from your manager listing the accommodations you are provided – for example, if you are allowed extra breaks, have modified job duties, receive extra help, or are scheduled in a different manner than your coworkers.
What if I need to return to work full time?
Our current economic climate is very challenging, and Social Security’s process is exceptionally slow. Often, people who are waiting on the process are able to find full-time employment which they are physically able to do and meets their needs.
If you are in this situation, you may be able to earn past due benefits for the time you were unable to work – as long as you were not working, or were working under substantial gainful activity levels – for at least one full year. This is referred to as a closed period of benefits. You also need to have been receiving medical treatment during that timeframe. However, if you try to go back to work and remain in the position for less than 6 months due to your conditions, Social Security will classify this as an unsuccessful work attempt, and you will remain eligible for ongoing benefits.
If you are pursuing a claim for a closed period of benefits, Social Security will apply the same evaluation process that they ordinarily use for a continuing disability claim. However, Social Security will not look at the medical treatment you have received after you returned to work on a full-time basis. Instead, Social Security will evaluate the severity of your conditions during the timeframe when you were unable to work. This assessment is based on documentation in your medical records, such as diagnostic imaging, physical examination findings, operative reports, and prescribed medications.
LaBovick Law Group is here to help!
If you are struggling to maintain normal work activity due to your medical conditions, the attorneys at LaBovick Law Group can help you determine whether Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are the right option for you.
Give us a call at (561) 625-8400 for a free case evaluation and to get your application started right away.