Working Part-Time On Social Security Disability

This blog article will address how part-time work is generally defined and if an applicant is allowed to do so while filing for Social Security Disability.

 

First off, the term “part-time” can mean a lot of different things.  Social Security uses more of an earnings-based definition for they typical W2’d employee.  When it comes to the allowable limit of earnings per month Social Security defines the limit and calls it “Substantial Gainful Activity.”  Generally speaking, when there is a pending claim for Social Security Disability and the Claimant decides to work, they are limited from earning anything more than the monthly Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount.  For the year 2019 that amount is $1220 per month, gross.  To clarify, this is not a take home amount or amount after any deductions be they taxes/medical/voluntary/judgments/etc.  For example, if a person is making $10 per hour and works 10 hours in a week their gross earnings for that week are $100.  If they get a bonus of $50 that week as well, that will put their gross earnings at $150 for the week.  That is what Social Security will count earnings as.

 

There are a couple of exceptions to the rule above.  One, if a person is blind and that is the reason they are applying for disability the SSA allows them to earn more.  For 2019 that SGA amount is $2040 gross earnings per month.  This applicant needs to be careful, though, as the blindness rules are fairly strict.  If the Claimant is not found blind by the SSA at any point in their claim and they earned at a level greater than $1220 per month, they will be likely to have eliminated the possibility of a claim based on other impairments for that application/time frame.

 

The other exception is self-employed individuals.  Self-employed individuals allowance for earnings while a case is pending is a different topic.  While the SGA amount of $1220 per month may come into play for some self-employed claimants, they also will compare what you made prior to filing for disability versus what that person is making while their claim is pending.  This topic will be addressed in a later blog article.

Written by Robert Tadych

Robert has been with the firm since November 2008 and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability.

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Postponement Of A Hearing

This blog article will address some of the reasons for a postponement of a hearing that a Claimant or attorney has no control over.  These are in no particular order and not meant to be an exhaustive list.

 

One of the main reasons that a hearing is postponed is because of sickness or injury to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that presides over the hearing and makes the hearing decision.  Unfortunately, there typically is not much notice given in these situations.  Occasionally a substitute ALJ will be found either in the same office or sometimes a different location and appear via video teleconference (VTC).  If a substitute cannot be found the hearing will be postponed for obvious reasons.

 

Another reason a hearing is postponed is because an expert (either medical or vocational) that is scheduled to appear and testify may be sick or a no-show.  In those situations if the ALJ does not want to cancel, they will typically take as much testimony as possible and conduct a semi-complete hearing, but may have a supplemental hearing to take that testimony or send interrogatories in a written format to the expert to answer some questions that will help them render a decision.  The Claimant has the right to respond to these interrogatories and may at times request a supplemental hearing.

 

A third reason is the absence of a hearing monitor or security guard.  In these situations, again, substitutes will be searched for.  However, if none can be found, the hearing will be cancelled.  A hearing monitor is like a court reporter and is charged with making an audio recording of the hearing to preserve the record.  If that cannot be done the hearing will not happen.  A security guard with proper government clearance is necessary to complete a hearing as their role is to ensure safety in the federal government controlled facility, even in places where they are leasing space.

 

A forth reason a hearing is delayed is equipment failure.  For example, if the recording equipment used by the hearing monitor does not work the hearing will be rescheduled.  Or, if a hearing is scheduled to be completed by video, that equipment is down, and the ALJ does not wish to proceed by another means (i.e. telephone or driving to the hearing location if possible) the hearing will be postponed.

 

Finally, the most common reason a hearing is delayed is for weather.  If the SSA decides to close a particular hearing office or remote location (SSA local office where hearing is being co-conducted) the hearing will be cancelled and rescheduled.

 

If any of the above scenarios occurs a Claimant and attorney can usually expect to be rescheduled within about 3 months.

Written by Robert Tadych

Robert has been with the firm since November 2008 and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability.

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Testimony of family members/friends/significant others at SSDI hearings

This blog article will address some questions that I get when representing Claimant’s at SSDI hearings and can be used to set expectations of family members.

In almost all cases the only person to testify on the Claimant’s behalf is the Claimant. The reasons are fairly simple as to why. First, as a family member and someone that has assisted the Claimant in their quest for benefits you will be assumed to have a vested interest in the Claimant getting their benefits and as such your testimony could be deemed skewed or one sided. As an empathetic family member who probably knew the Claimant prior to the deterioration of their medical condition, there is naturally an emotional aspect of having watched them deteriorate that could potentially overstate what they witness of the Claimant in daily life.

SSDI Administrative Law Judge

Second, these cases generally will have progressed over a period of a few years and will have medical records covering issues such as physical activity, mental health limitations, etcetera that do an excellent job corroborating the testimony of the Claimant. I like to tell clients that their medical records give the best insight into what a “typical day” is like when they are attending their regularly scheduled appointments. When a patient visits their clinic/hospital for any reason it is common for the medical provider to write in their observations of a person’s mood, gait, pain, alertness, attitude, etc. These notes assist (Administrative Law Judge) or ALJs, in their analyses of what a person is capable of.

Third, the ALJ is most interested in what a Claimant thinks of their own capabilities and struggles. Often when family members actually do testify they have a tendency to state how difficult the Claimant’s situation is on them personally, not the Claimant. The hearing is the Claimant’s time to tell their story in a limited timeframe.

Occasionally there are valid reasons for outside testimony from a family member. When there are traumatic brain injuries or severe memory issues to the point where a Claimant cannot articulate AT ALL what they experience medically on a daily or weekly basis. These situations are extremely rare. Another more common situation is when the Claimant is a child. In these situations, depending on the age of the child the parent/guardian will be expected to complete the picture for the ALJ.

 

By Robert Tadych

Written by Robert Tadych

Robert has been with the firm since November 2008 and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability.

View all author posts →