November 22, 2019
Say you’ve applied for Social Security disability benefits and after a long waiting period, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies your claim. You decide to appeal their decision, but while you wait for their response bills begin to pile up.
If your disability necessitates filing for Social Security disability benefits, it’s easy to assume you can’t return to work. But without a source of income, you could be hard-pressed to find a way to pay the bills that pile up while you wait for a favorable decision.
What can you do? Can you go back to work while you appeal a denial by the SSA?
The Lengthy Appeal Process
There is no way of knowing how long it will take to get approved for disability benefits. When the SSA denies your appeal, you have 60 days to appeal their decision. You’re still likely to wait two to four months until you hear the SSA’s revised decision.
While you wait, you’ve already got at least two months of living expenses, on top of the three to six months from when you first filed your application to when you received the SSA’s denial. But by no means are you guaranteed to be approved after you appeal. In fact, almost 90 percent of appeals are denied again.
If you’re denied benefits a second time, you must request a hearing to review the full extent of your claim if you want to try again for an approval. However, hearings can take a long time to schedule: you could wait 17 months before you get your day in court.
That means you could be looking at nearly two years of unemployment while you wait to be approved for disability benefits.
Can I Go Back to Work?
Going back to work to keep yourself afloat while you appeal the SSA’s decision may look like a necessity, even if you would endanger your health by doing so. But this may cause the SSA to look unfavorably upon your application.
Your disability claim is based on the fact that you are unable to work, which you then try to prove with medical evidence and testimony. It’s difficult to support this fact if you return to work (even if it’s light or sedentary work).
Because you returned to work, the SSA will look at how much you work in a week and how much money you make a month to gauge whether or not you’re disabled enough to warrant benefits.
For 2019, the most you can make and still be eligible for disability benefits is $1220 per month. This income cap is liable to change every year, so if you’re going to be waiting a while for your application’s second review—or even your hearing—you should keep up-to-date on this number. If you make more than the income cap, you are automatically ineligible for benefits.
You also run the risk of being denied if you work more than a certain number of hours a week. If you work part-time, you may still be able to make a case for your disability, especially if you were a full-timer before your condition began. However, if you’re still working full-time during your appeal process, the SSA will likely determine you’re not disabled enough to warrant benefits.
Can I File for Unemployment?
If you don’t want to run the risk of getting denied for returning to work, you may consider applying for unemployment benefits. But you must use caution. Technically you can receive both unemployment and disability insurance at the same time, but by applying for unemployment benefits you are acknowledging that you are still able to work, which can reflect poorly on your disability claim.
In addition, the administrative law judge (ALJ) who reviews your case may move your onset date from when your doctor first diagnosed you all the way up to when you stop receiving unemployment. This can effectively strip you of a lot of back pay.
Help from an Indianapolis Social Security Disability Benefits Lawyer
Regardless of whether you return to work or seek unemployment benefits during your disability benefits appeal process, you must adequately explain why you’ve elected to do so when you file your appeal. If you aren’t sure how best to support your claim, Hensley Legal Group can help. We’re here to help you navigate the Social Security disability benefits application process.
Call us today or contact us online for a free conversation about your claim. Our Indiana disability benefits lawyers are here for you.