One of the trickier parts of disability cases is how work can impact a claim.
Whether you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you can work part-time and still be eligible for benefits (though this can reduce SSI payments), but a lot of different rules come into play if you start working full-time, especially if it’s only one or two months before your hearing.
There are two ways of approaching this: the trial work period, or the closed period of disability.
A claimant qualifies for a trial work period if they are off full-time work for 12 consecutive months (or longer), and then work full-time for nine months or less in a five year period. If you enter a trial work period, you still receive disability benefits, and they can be easily reinstated if you stop working after that nine month period.
In a closed period of disability, you are essentially telling Social Security that your disabling condition has ceased and you only want backpay for the time you were off work. If you stop working, you will then have to re-apply for benefits.
Looking at just how the Social Security regulations are written, the big test here is medical improvement, as that is the strongest evidence for a closed period rather than a trial work period. In reality though, judges often push for a closed period without medical improvement so that cases will not be paid out indefinitely. This situation comes up quite a bit with younger disability applicants under the age of 50.
If you have returned to work while your disability claim is pending, make sure to discuss this with a disability attorney to understand how it will impact your case.