Let me start by saying, “disability benefits are not guaranteed”. I would never advise someone to not work if it results in them having an undue hardship like going hungry, having the power turned off or being homeless, especially in light of the fact that they may not ultimately win their disability hearing.
SSDI Advice on Working Part-Time
That being said, the definition of disability is an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA). Unpacking this even further, SGA essentially means gross monthly earnings of $1,310 in 2021 ($1,260 in 2020) or performing work activity on a full-time basis (40 hours a week). So, technically you are eligible for SSDI benefits if you have gross earnings less than $1,310 and work less than 40 hours per week. BUT, put yourself in an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) shoes. If a claimant sat in front of you and said, I cannot work, but had monthly earnings of $1,309, you would likely tell that claimant to clock into work for another hour next month and then go about finding that claimant ‘not disabled’. So, working part-time even if below SGA prior to a disability hearing does matter. The closer you are to SGA, whether that be through earnings or hours worked, the less likely an ALJ is to find you disabled. There are a few things that you can do to help persuade a judge that you cannot work despite your earnings or hours worked approaching SGA. I ask my clients to get a letter of support from their supervisor detailing accommodations that my client gets that a typical employee does not. Maybe that is extra breaks, an ability to show up late or leave early, extra help with activities or an elimination of normal work activities. If you need days off between working, document it. Get written, notarized statements from family members that say as much. If you miss a lot of work, get records proving it from your H.R. department. Working part-time is not a death knell, in fact, it can help your case, if supported by consistent lifetime earnings. “I want to work, I love to work, I wish I could work, but alas, I can’t, more than what I am today” sounds a lot better than someone who never worked at all. SSI Note Generally, earning over $794 a month for an individual and $1,191 for married couples eliminate the ability to get SSI benefits.