It’s not unusual for one of my clients to have worked under the table or to be working some under the table while trying to get on Social Security disability.
The big problem with working under the table before becoming disabled is that you don’t earn work credits that help you get Social Security disability benefits based upon your own earnings. If you worked long enough under the table, you may not be able to get disability benefits based upon your own earnings. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may still be available. There are prices to be paid for working under the table and this is one of them.
We still have to tell Social Security about the work you did under the table before becoming disabled. Social Security wants your work history going back 15 years and that includes work under the table. I suppose that in theory you could get in legal trouble due to telling Social Security that you did work under the table but I’ve certainly never heard of any legal trouble on this account. You could certainly get in legal trouble for lying to Social Security about your work history. You are even supposed to tell Social Security about prior work that was illegal, such as drug dealing or prostitution. Really. You may not believe it but telling Social Security about this sort of thing actually enhances your credibility. They may figure that if you’re honest about something embarrassing that you’re probably honest about what’s wrong with you.
You definitely have to tell Social Security about any work under the table while your Social Security disability claim is pending. Lying about this is a criminal offense. Most of the time, the work under the table doesn’t amount to much anyway. Painting one house, a few days of construction work, mowing a few lawns, cleaning one house a week, etc., is not enough to defeat your claim. As I said above, being scrupulously honest about this sort of thing helps your case. Testimony about that job where you earned $50 can help you win your case since you’re being honest about something that you could have concealed.