Can I Apply For Social Security Disability If Working?

Q: Can someone who is disabled but working full time apply for Social Security Disability?

A: The Social Security definition of disability is based on ability to work plus other requirements. Shown below, see the steps followed in making a disability decision and note that three of the five basic questions involve ability to work.


While someone working full time could submit a Social Security disability application, doing so is not generally a good idea. An application to start receiving Social Security disability by someone currently working full time, or even part-time with earnings over specified levels, called substantial gainful activity (SGA), would not be approved based on continuing work activity alone. Such a case would not even go for medical review because work activity, not health, would be the basis of the application decision.

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is the term used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both. Employer subsidy and other factors are considered in addition to the gross amount of earnings.

Using a dollar amount to help determine SGA, in 2015 a non-blind person working with earnings that averaged more than $1,090 a month, the SGA amount, generally cannot be considered disabled.

In 2016 the SGA amount will be $1,130 per month. A higher SGA level of $1,820 per month will apply for blindness.

Contact Social Security to discuss your options and get more specific and personal information if this applies to you.

Important: the above applies to a person filing application to receive Social Security disability while continuing to work, not to someone already receiving disability who returns to work.

Various work incentives exist to help someone already receiving these benefits return to work and SGA levels of work, for someone already receiving Social Security disability, do not automatically mean benefits end.

If you receive Social Security disability, always contact Social Security before returning to work. This also applies for disability benefits received from the separate Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

Different work incentives apply for Social Security disability compared to SSI.