The Social Security Administration (SSA) does allow you to work during the application process. However, there are certain limitations that you must keep in mind if you are considering going back to work while waiting for a decision to be made.
SSA defines working as earning Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). If you earn more than $1,000 per month, then you are officially “working” as defined by SGA. This means that SSA will automatically deny your claim for disability benefits.
However, if you attempt to go back to work, this may not necessarily hurt your claim. If you work part-time earning less than SGA and must stop after less than 3 months due to your impairments, this is considered an “unsuccessful work attempt” and will not affect your claim.
If you are earning under the SGA level but are able to work for more than 3 months, SSA will look at this in more detail. If your work attempt lasts longer than 3 months, SSA will check to see if any of your impairments were severe enough to interfere with your job in any way (they may check for several absences or unsatisfactory work).
If you are able to work for longer than 6 months, even if you are earning below SGA level, this is no longer considered an “unsuccessful work attempt” and your disability claim will be denied.
In short, SSA will look at any amount and type of work you are currently performing when making a decision, as SSA’s definition of disability means that you are not able to work any type of job that exists in the national economy. Unsuccessful work attempts will not hurt your claim, but as soon as you are earning more than $1,000 per month or working for an extended period of time, you will not be eligible to receive disability benefits.