Generally, you cannot draw Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if you are engaged in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). The Social Security Administration defines substantial gainful activity as any job — full or part time — in which you earn more than $1,470 per month or $2,460 per month if you are blind. (These are rates as of 2023. They are adjusted yearly by the Social Security Administration.) If your gross monthly earnings exceed this amount, your benefits will be taken away, because it is the Social Security Administration’s position that if you can make over this minimal amount of money you are not functionally limited enough to be considered disabled.
However, there are a few exceptions to the SGA rule — special circumstances where an individual may be receiving more monthly earnings than the SGA limit and will still be considered to have a qualifying disability and thus be eligible for disability benefits. One of these exceptions is for “accommodated work”.
The SSA says that accommodated work is when an employer makes special allowances for a disabled worker that typically does not exist for other employees. Accommodations are changes made to the hiring process, the work environment, or to the way a job is done. These accommodations could include, for example:
- Flexible hours under which a disabled employee is allowed to work only when they feel well enough
- Providing specialized tools or equipment
- Classifying the worker as an independent contractor, even though other employees doing the same work are classified as salaried employees.
Changes such as these allow a person with a disability to access equal employment opportunities.
Under SSA rules, income from accommodated work is not counted as part of the calculations for substantial gainful activity and thus accommodated work will not reduce your Social Security disability benefits.
But there are two important conditions which apply to accommodated work that you need to know:
- First, you must be able to prove that your work is truly accommodated. The best proof here is a statement from your employer spelling out in detail what accommodations have been made on your behalf. Sometimes, though, employers are reluctant to provide such a statement.
- Second, there is a two-year time limit on how long you can exempt your accommodated work income from the calculation of your SGA income.
The road to winning disability benefits is long and difficult to navigate. Statistics from the federal Government Accounting Office show you are three times more likely to be allowed benefits if you have an advocate such as an attorney representing you than someone who has no representation at all. We stand ready to fight for your rights. Contact the disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law by phone or email for a free evaluation of your case.