Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was in a car accident about two years ago. I was paralyzed from the waist down. I have continued to work, but over the last several months my income has been declining as I take more and more time off. I continue to have severe pain which requires me to take pain medication. I also have difficulty staying focused. I am wondering if it’s better to go ahead and quit work and file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or if I should try to continue to work part-time?”
When should quit work and file for SSDI benefits?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is awarded to claimants who have a severe health condition which does not allow them to work or earn what the SSA considers substantial earnings. Workers must also be insured for SSDI, which means they must have worked and paid taxes. Their condition must also be expected to last for at least 12 months.
Now, although it’s clear that your condition is severe and will last at least 12 continuous months, you did not mention how much income you can make or whether your earnings are over the 2017 limit of $1950 per month.
Assuming your earnings have fallen below this level and you are unable to work too many hours each week, you can apply for SSDI benefits now. You may be able to work part-time and still receive benefits.
If, however, your earnings are above the SGA limit, you will have to stop working or limit your working or your claim will automatically be denied, regardless of the severity of your health condition.
Considerations before applying for SSDI
Now, another consideration you will need to think about is how part-time work may be affecting your overall SSDI benefit. For example, it’s not uncommon for some workers to have a very high income but they decide to work part-time. The reasons might be varied, but they may find, given their health condition, that part-time work is all they are capable of performing.
Unfortunately, because SSDI is calculated based on a worker’s average earnings, as the employee works months or maybe years at this reduced rate their SSDI benefit is slowly declining. If a worker continues earning low wages for a number of years what might have been a healthy SSDI disability payment may end up being significantly lower.
With this in mind, not only do you have to consider whether you can physically continue to work part-time, you also need to consider whether part-time work might hurt you financially in the long run.
Talk to the SSA before you quit work
Before making any type of decision or quit work talk to the SSA. Make sure you understand your current SSDI benefit if you were to stop working now. Determine if your income is currently too high to apply or if you can apply and continue to work part-time. Finally, find out what might happen if you continue to make minimal income for the next five to ten years and whether this could significantly lower your SSDI monthly benefit.