Im often asked about being able to work while waiting for a decision on a Social Security Disability (SSD) claim or after a claim has been approved. Whether or not to try to work is an individual determination and should be considered on a case by case basis.
You generally cannot be working and earning more than $1,130 per month in 2016 ($1,820 if blind) and keep a claim for SSD benefits going. These earning are gross not net, and again are based on amount earned not number of hours worked. Therefore, if you are capable of a higher hourly wage you will need to limit your work to fewer hours than someone with a lower hourly wage. This amount is what Social Security considers Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) and typically changes each year. Your claim will progress as long as you are earning less than that amount, however any work activity will bring up the question of why you cannot work more and therefore adds an additional hurdle to winning your claim.
You can also have some work activity once approved, however your disability benefits may be affected by your monthly earnings. If you are on SSD you are allowed a 9-month trial work period to earn between a threshold earnings level (which varies year to year) up to whatever you want without affecting your benefits. These 9 months do not have to be consecutive and can occur any time in a 5-year rolling period. If you go over the threshold earnings level again, your benefits will be suspended and special extended periods of eligibility rules will kick in. There are other rules regarding earnings for those with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or Social Security Retirement benefit.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, it is important to get clarification from your local Social Security office or attorney so that you do not jeopardize any potential benefits you may otherwise be entitled to.