How to Handle Disability Reviews While Working

Artwork: Robin Mead

You are allowed to work part time while receiving Social Security disability.

If you are going back to work because your health is improved, and your goal is to transition off benefits, that is wonderful. There are many programs that can help.

If you are still disabled, and your goal is to work part time and continue disability, it is a good idea to think carefully and plan ahead.

Here is some more info on the Social Security policies for medical reviews:

How Does Social Security Decide if I am Still Disabled?

During a medical review, Social Security will review your medical records to see the following things:

💮 1) you still have severe symptoms
💮 2) your condition has not improved
💮 3) you are medically unable to work full time (more than SGA)
💮 4) you are in regular treatment and following your doctor’s recommendations.

If all of these things are well documented in your medical records, you may be able pass a medical review with no problems.

What’s the Best Way to Explain My Symptoms to Social Security?

It will not matter as much what you write or what you tell them. It will matter what your doctor has written in your medical records.

It is a great idea to make sure your doctor is aware of all of your limitations and read your complete medical records to see what is written. Hint: Do not read visit summaries. You can only get complete records by paying money and filling out forms.

It’s also a great idea to talk to your doctor and see if she agrees that you are medically unable to work full time. It’s a great idea to talk to your doctor and see if she will support you if you have a problem with your disability case – is she willing to write a letter or fill out a form? You may never need this extra support – but it’s good to know if it is there or not!

How Can I Be Prepared for My Medical Review?

Here’s where you can learn more about keeping accurate, good records for medical reviews: How to Prepare for a Medical Review.

Will Working Impact My Review?

Social Security may also consider if the type of work you do indicates an improvement in your condition.

💮 Example: Jane is approved for back problems and then gets a job lifting boxes. Social Security may consider whether this is an indication of improvement.

💮 Example: Joe is approved for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When Joe was approved, part of the approval was based on his medical records showing severe cognitive problems with memory, focus and concentration. Then Joe gets a job doing bookkeeping which requires focus and concentration. Social Security may consider whether this is an indication of improvement.

💮 Example: Judy is approved for Bipolar. Part of her approval is based the fact that her case file shows that she is unable to appropriately communicate and interact with other people. Then she gets a job as a receptionist greeting people all day long. Social Security may consider whether this is an indication of improvement.

If I Join Ticket to Work or Vocational Rehab Will This Help Or Hurt My Review?

If you are in a Vocational Rehab or Ticket to Work program, Social Security will collect the files from that program and see what they say about your ability to work. Depending on what is written there, it may help or hurt your review.

Some work incentive programs, such as Ticket to Work, will cause your reviews to stop. Be careful. Many people enter these programs because they think they are protected. However, you must meet certain work requirements to stay in the program. Most people I have met tried the program for a while but could not keep up, then got kicked out of these programs, then got medical reviews. It did not always go well.

Can I Work Without Doing Ticket to Work?

Yes, you can find a job on your own, and for some people this is a better approach.

If you are planning to continue receive disability, then you may not find Ticket to Work and other Return-to-Work programs are a good match for you.

Some people have done this by:

💮 Earn under SGA. (Higher with work incentives)

💮 Having good medical records and regular medical treatment.

💮 Having doctors who believed they had a severe condition. Their doctors and medical records made it clear that they were medically unable to work full time.

How Often Will I Be Reviewed?

If you start working within two years after you are approved, this may trigger an additional medical review.

If more than two years have passed, you will not get an extra review from working, but you will still have your regularly scheduled review.

Most people are on a review cycle of every three, five or seven years. Sometime reviews are late. If you don’t know what cycle you are on, you can call and ask.

If you are on SSDI, you can have nine months of Trial Work Periods. Some people think this will protect them from medical reviews for nine months. It will not! You will still get your regularly scheduled medical reviews.

What Are the Regulations for Working? What Am I Allowed to Do?

Good question. Learn more here: How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble

6 thoughts on “How to Handle Disability Reviews While Working”

  1. Can I just say that you’re truly a huge asset this site is to the chronic illness community. A huge wealth of
    knowledge and information.


  2. I have tried calling and requesting a benefit planning query several times (attempting to get student loans forgiven). I admit the first time I called I didn’t have the name of the form handy. But every time I have called requesting when my next medical review would be the people on the phone say that since I am on ssi “they don’t know,, it’s random, and can’t give me any documentation stating when it would be”

    Is this a common issue? I managed to get someone who knew what I was talking about the last time I called, right before Christmas, but I still haven’t received anything in the mail yet. Given the holidays, I was planning to give it this extra week before I tried calling again


    1. The people at the national number are not trained in policies. You can try calling your local office, if they don’t know what you are talking about, ask to speak to a supervisor.

      Hope you get it this soon. You can also get a discharge by having your doctor fill out a form. Most of our readers got it that way.


  3. Im stressed out in the middle of a long form CDR/review. I have been working part time, my part time work doesnt contradict my prior disability approval but it may have triggered the long form. Originally approved 8 yrs ago by ALJ for 3 conditions, musclo skelatal/hands, pulomonary/sleep medicine and viral.

    I’ve been keeping contact with my SSA examiner, sent her hundreds of pages of medicals and in spite of this they sent me to a CE. I asked for my doctor to do it, but my question was basically ignored.
    1- While im in the waiting period, would it make sense to have my doctor do a RFC style questionairre like you refer us to on this site? I have no medical evidence of improvement, since my initial approval for SSDI in 2010, however I fear, but im worried it gets dilluted.
    2- i did what u said i wrote my congressional rep, for hep. rude staff, but who knows maybe they’ll get involved. i pointed to the question of “why can’t my doctor do the CE”?
    3- If im working part time, and this new work limits because of a newer injury, which had nothing to do with my original approval, must I now go out of my way to prove that the part time job can’t be a full time career or just stick with limitations imposed due to the new conditon (back= avoid sitting 1 to 2 hours)? Or is it more important to prove there is no medical improvement on my original “conditions”?

    tnx for the great site. I’ve been following all your ideas, only so many hourse in a day, im very overwhelmed.


    1. My experience with senators is that they don’t resolve the problem directly. They simply act as a threat and you still have to resolve the problem. They tell the company that you have a problem with that they’ll get in trouble if they don’t help you. I did that once and should not have bothered. Because they did nothing different. I still had to resolve the problem with the company. All the senator did was make a threat instead of resolving the problem By acting on my behalf.


      1. This is a smart comment and I believe this to be true. Senator or congressperson will bring attention to your problem so it does not get ignored and is given fair consideration.


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