Can Social Security Stop My Disability Benefits Even If I Earn Less Than $1170 Monthly?

Apr 2 2017 - 6:45am

Larry, I have been on permanent SS disability since 2010, and didn't work anywhere. I got tired of sitting at home so I decided to go to college. I graduated with an associates degree in nursing thinking I might be able to perform this job (I worked 30 years in heavy industrial work and figured a nursing job HAD to be less physically demanding). After 10 months (my 9-month trial period and 1 month into the additional 3 months your given) I could no longer hold up to full-time work so I went part-time. Two months ago SS tells me I'm ineligible anymore because I'm making too much, by this time I was well below the SGA. I sent all my pay stubs to them again (I have personally taken my pay stubs to the local SS office every month since I've been working) with a letter of explanation of the 9 months and the three months and they sent me a letter a few weeks later explaining that since I am not making SGA I will continue to receive my benefits and all is good. Today I received another letter, from my local SS office, stating I was now ineligible, for benefits, because-although they usually look at income as a reference for SGA- they can judge part-time work as full-time under different parameters, such as skill level. I did my homework when I decided to try working again and nothing in the rules of ticket-to-work described any other reason to pull my benefits than income amount. I have a char-cot foot and it got worse when I went back to work despite all my best preventative measures (losing weight, special shoes w/orthopedic insoles, etc.) I have dotted every i and crossed every t that I have studied/been told to do, but I can't work full-time anymore, that's just a fact. Can SS pull my benefits for having the skill level of an RN and a good hourly rate, even though I stay under their $1170 a month SGA? It's like their trying everything they can to work against me. By the way, not that I think it matters, but I'm 58 years old and I just think if I can work 3 days a month it would be a help to a healthcare industry that needs all the nurses it can get its hands on. Thanks for taking the time to listen.

Hi,

Social Security can terminate your disability benefits due to medical improvement, but apparently that's not the issue in your case. Social Security can stop your disability benefits due to work with earnings below the substantial gainful activity level of $1170 per month, but it's extremely rare. In order for that to occur, Social Security would have to establish that the value of your work activity is higher than $1170/mo., even though you may be paid less than that. Here is a reference from Social Security's operations manual that explains the factors involved in this type of determination: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0410505020.

It sounds like the decision made in your case may well be a judgment call, so you may want to consider filing an appeal. For more information on the appeals process, refer to this Social Security publication: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10041.pdf.

Best, Jerry