When you file for Social Security disability, you will be asked to choose an “onset date” for your disability. This date represents the point in time when you contend that you were no longer able to engage in “substantial gainful activity. Your judge will always look to see if your earnings record shows any income after that date – if it does, he will have questions.
Generally there are four possibilities if your earnings record shows income after onset: You should always discuss these issues prior to the hearing with your lawyer and be prepared to bring supporting documentation with you.
- Earnings represents accrued vacation, sick time or other benefits – in this case, your post onset date earnings does indicate that you performed any substantial activity and should not create any problems with your claimed onset date.
- Earnings represents income from non-SGA level work – in this case, you would be alleging that you did work after your alleged onset but that your work was part time, it was an unsuccessful work attempt, it was work in a structured work environment or that you received special considerations which makes the work less than SGA. This argument works best if you can provide evidence of a sheltered work environment or that your work attempt was short term and unsuccessful.
- Earnings record is wrong – someone else’s earnings have been associated with your record. This is unusual but it happens. If so, you will want to contact Social Security to correct the earnings record – it would be helpful to have that correspondence available for the judge to review.
- You did, in fact, work at SGA levels after onset. In this case, you will probably need to amend your alleged onset date.
Whatever the reason, you should always discuss any post-onset date earnings with your lawyer. You can be certain that the judge will ask – and you don’t want any surprises on the day of your hearing.