A disability claimant may have to wait several months before Social Security finally renders them disabled. In New York, it takes 3-5 months for an initial decision. If a disability claimant’s initial application is denied, it could take anywhere from 9 to 20 months, depending on where you live. Unfortunately, the current backlog of disability cases is hovering around 800,000. This is precisely why often times, a disability claim could take approximately 2 years to adjudicate.
When you file a disability claim, you are telling the Social Security Administration that you are unable to work because of your injuries or impairments. But for many people, waiting several months without any stream of income is just not feasible. Many disability claimants have families to support, mortgages, bills to pay, etc. Often times, disability claimants find it necessary to return to work in some capacity.
Making the decision to return to work in some capacity may or may not negatively affect a disability claim. Social Security has placed a dollar amount on what they call actual “work.” Also known as “substantial gainful activity (SGA),” Social Security defines work as earning $1,000 or more per month. If you are earning more a $1,000 a month, then Social Security considers you to be working. If you are earning less than $1,000 a month, than you are not performing SGA and Social Security may still find you disabled even during the months you might have worked part-time.
There’s also another important scenario that frequently arises with disability claimants. Sometimes, disability hopefuls waiting for a hearing return to work at a full time capacity out of necessity to support themselves of their family. If this individual is able to go back to work with no problems for an indefinite period of months, a claimant may still have what’s known as a “closed period” case where Social Security can find this find this person disabled for the months they were unable to work. This means that Social Security can compensate that indivdual for the months they did not earn SGA.
If this individual returns to work at a full-time capacity, but soon realizes that their injuries or impairments just would not allow them to continue to perform in the workplace, Social Security can classify this situation as an “unsuccessful work attempt.” Social Security laws dictate that if an indivdual works 3 months or less and is forced to stop because of their disability, this can be classified as an unsuccessful work attempt. If an individual works more than 3 months, but less than 6 months, Social Security may still deem this an unsuccessful work attempt if the indivudal can meet specific requirements.
If you ultimately make the decision to work in any capacity, it is important to know how this decision might affect your claim for benefits. If you are represented by an attorney, you should let them know if you are going to return to work so they can explain the ramifications of your decision.