Applying for Disability While Working

Artwork: Elizabeth D’Angelo

This article is about applying for Social Security disability. If you are trying to apply for private disability through your employer’s insurance, please read this instead. Now then, about Social Security disability:


๐Ÿ’  You are allowed to apply for disability while you are working, as long as you are earning less than $1,170 per month.

๐Ÿ’  If you are self-employed they will consider the amount of earnings after your business expenses. If your income is sporadic, in some cases they may consider a yearly average. Please take a look here for more info on Special Notes for People Who Are Self-Employed

๐Ÿ’ ย If you’d like to know a little more about how to apply for disability and how to (hopefully) get approved a little quicker or easier, check out:ย The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability


๐Ÿ’  It is possible to get approved while working. Many people have done it. But it may be more difficult or may take longer. Many disability lawyers recommend not to work while applying, and some will not accept any clients who are working. However, if you have the right kind of medical records and a good application it is totally possible and we have heard from many people who have done it.

๐Ÿ’  If you are working, it is extra important to have strong support from your doctor. It will help if your doctor clearly writes that you are medically unable perform “substantial gainful activity” (work and earn more than $1,170 per month). It will also help if your doctor offers a detailed written explanation of how your symptoms prevent you from performing Substantial Gainful Activity. This can be written in your medical records and also on an RFC form.

๐Ÿ’  Most doctors do not know the social security regulations. Please share with your doctor the regs: Unable to sustain work at more than $1,170 per month. Some doctors think you must be unable to do any work at all, but this is not the Social Security policy.

๐Ÿ’  If your employer has seen you struggle at work, or seen your health decline, a letter from your employer may be helpful to your case: Sample Letter from Employers


๐Ÿ’  If you return to work while applying, Social Security will continue to process your application, as long as your income is below $1,170 per month. However, there is aย  chance they may change your onset date – which means you may get less backpay. In some cases, working for just a few weeks could mean getting many thousands of dollars less in backpay.

๐Ÿ’  If you go back to work, but only work for a short period (less than 6 months) because you are too sick to continue, Social Security may consider this an “Unsuccessful Work Attempt“.


๐Ÿ’  Some people go back to school while applying and pay their living expenses through student loans. Here’s two stories of people who did this:ย Hibiscus Applies for Disability While in School andย Poppy Applies for Disability While in School


๐Ÿ’  If you are working, please check and see if your employer offers disability insurance. If the answer is yes, you definitely want to apply for this. Disability insurance through your employer can be much much much faster than Social Security disability, and many people start by collecting this as their first step. Learn more about: How to Apply for Disability through Your Employer

๐Ÿ’  If your employer offers disability insurance, but you are still working and still considering your options, there are a few really important things you need to know:ย How to Protect Yourself if Your Employer Offers LTD

๐Ÿ’  Also, please check to see if your employer’s retirement plan offers any kind of funds for disability retirement.ย Also, check your life insurance policy for any disability funds available.

๐Ÿ’  Finally, if you are in California, Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island, or New Jersey, you can look into applying for short term disability through the state.


๐Ÿ’  Once you are already on disability, you are also allowed to work, but there are many factors to take into consideration. Hereโ€™s some more info on How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble

Updated January 2018. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please use one of these magic buttons to share this post on Facebook or Twitter:



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