• 33 N. Dearborn Street, Suite 650, Chicago, IL 60602
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • LinkedIN
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • How to Apply
  • Applied and Waiting
  • Denied
  • Social Security Benefit Types
  • Medical Conditions

Will Social Security Punish Me if I Am Forced to Work Part-Time Out of Financial Desperation?

Posted by on in Denied Social Security Benefits

financial desperation, Social Security Disability Insurance, Chicago Social Security Disability Insurance lawyer, Illinois disability case, denied social securityApplying for Social Security Disability Insurance often puts people in a Catch-22 situation. They are physically unable to work full-time anymore. But on the other hand, they usually lack the financial resources to support themselves without some source of income. And given that it often takes years to resolve a disability claim, some applicants are pushed into part-time work that, paradoxically, may be used as a pretext by Social Security for denying benefits.

Social Security Criticized for Rejecting Disability Claim Due to Part-Time Produce Stand Work

Consider a recent Illinois disability case. The applicant was 50 years old when she could no longer work as a bartender and cook due to osteoarthritis and other medical impairments. That was more than seven years ago. To help make ends meet in the interim, the applicant worked three days a week at a friend's produce stand. The friend made significant accommodations, only requiring the applicant to do simple things like unpack tomatoes and take telephone orders.

At a subsequent disability hearing, the Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) saw this heavily restricted part-time work as proof the applicant was not really disabled. As the ALJ put it, “Although the [applicant] did not perform substantial gainful activity at the produce stand, her ongoing work activity for more than three years after her alleged onset date destroys the credibility for her disability claim.” For this, among other reasons, the ALJ denied the applicant disability benefits.

A federal judge said the ALJ was out of line, however, and ordered Social Security to conduct a new hearing. Given that the ALJ acknowledged the applicant's work at the produce stand was not “substantial gainful activity” under Social Security regulations, it was inconsistent to use it as conclusive proof the applicant was somehow not disabled. Indeed, as a matter of law the judge noted that “an ability to do part-time work does not give rise to a presumption that a claimant is not disabled.”

Furthermore, the applicant testified she had no choice but to engage in some level of work. She was divorced and had no other source of support, the judge said, and as the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has said in similar cases, “The fact that a claimant 'pushed herself to work part-time and maintain some minimal level of financial stability, despite her pain, does not preclude her from establishing that she was disabled.'”

Are You Disabled and Need Legal Assistance?

Desperation often forces us to do things we know are detrimental to our long-term health. Nobody should ever be forced to choose between destitution and seeking disability benefits they are entitled to as a matter of law. If you are unable to work full-time due to a physical or mental impairment and need help from a qualified Chicago Social Security Disability Insurance lawyer, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today at 312-999-0999.


  • DuPage County Bar Association
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • SuperLawyers


Download a free copy of our book
10 Things Social Security Won't Tell You

Evanston Office
Address1603 Orrington Avenue, Suite 600
Evanston, IL 60201
Phone(847) 999-0419
Schaumburg Office
Address1821 Walden Square, Suite 400
Schaumburg, IL 60173
Phone(847) 979-9499
Downers Grove Office
Address1431 Opus Place, Suite 110
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Phone(630) 366-0999
Lake Forest Office
Address100 S. Saunders Rd., Suite 150
Lake Forest, IL 60045
Phone(847) 220-9998
Orland Park Office
Address15255 S. 94th Avenue, Suite 500
Orland Park, IL 60462
Phone(708) 986-0999
Chicago Office
Address33 N. Dearborn Street, Suite 650
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone(312) 999-0999

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.

Chat Us Text Us