What Will Happen If I Draw Disability Benefits, Work, and Don't Tell Social Security?

Social Security will find out if you work, and you'll have to pay back any benefits you shouldn't have received.

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It may seem worth it at first glance, but Social Security will eventually find out about any work you are performing whether or not you tell the agency about your job.

How Social Security Finds Out About Work

How does Social Security know if an individual is working and how much they have earned?

Employer Reports

For most jobs, Social Security earnings records are provided through information reported to the Internal Revenue Service each year. If your Social Security number has reported earnings from employers, Social Security will be able to access that information.

Individual Reports

What about working "under the table"? Social Security often becomes aware of an individual's work activity through a tip from someone (generally Social Security finds individuals working for cash from individual reports). Often, individuals are reported by friends, family members, ex or estranged spouses, co-workers, supervisors, or even neighbors. 

Social Security has to investigate each of these reports to ascertain if an individual is indeed working. Even if an individual is working on a cash basis, those earnings count for disability eligibility purposes.

Disability Reviews

There are times that Social Security finds work activity during a routine disability review, or CDR (CDR stands for continuing disability review). For instance, during a CDR, Social Security may see a doctor's note recording that you had been doing some work or something that sounded like work activity. 

Other times, an allegation that an individual is working actually triggers a "work review," or "work CDR." What is a work review? During a Social Security work review, Social Security contacts your employer(s) for a monthly breakdown of your earnings. Once all employment information is received, Social Security will complete monthly totals for all months worked and determine which months you were not entitled to receive a benefit check

Consequences of Not Reporting Work

Social Security is cracking down on individuals who knowingly do not report work activity. What will happen when Social Security finds unreported work activity? At the very least, you may find yourself in the situation of owing Social Security money (an overpayment), and at the worst you may find yourself being charged with Social Security fraud.

If you have an overpayment with Social Security, your benefits may be suspended until they collect all the money owed, or you may be allowed to make a payment arrangement with Social Security to pay back any money owed. Reporting all work activity will prevent overpayments and will allow you to receive information that may prevent your disability benefits from being suspended or terminated. For more information, see our article on what Social Security does when it finds an overpayment.

Updated by: , J.D.

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