In order to qualify for Social Security disability, you must be unable to do significant work. While it doesn’t mean that working part-time for a small amount of money automatically bars you from qualifying for benefits, engaging in a substantial gainful activity does guarantee that the SSA will deny your disability application.
What Does the SSA Consider to Be Substantial Gainful Activity?
SGA is any work that earns a certain dollar amount monthly, with some exceptions. That amount changes every year. For 2019, the SGA limit is $1,220 for anyone who is not blind applying for SSDI, or $2,040 for anyone who is blind applying for SSDI. There is no SGA limit for SSI applicants. If you are making more than those amounts per month, then the SSA will assume you are not disabled, and you are able to engage in competitive employment. The SSA does not count income from non-work sources, such as interest, investments, or gifts.
A low level of earnings does not necessarily mean you’re unable to work. The SSA will consider circumstances in which you’ve performed work currently and in the past. If your work is on-call or you are currently laid off, you may not qualify for disability because you could work if not for the on-call nature of your job.
The SSA will also consider volunteer work and criminal activity when evaluating whether you can perform SGA. Anything that represents substantial work that someone would normally be paid for can be counted as work activities. School attendance and hobbies are not considered when evaluating SGA ability.
High earnings over the limit do not always disqualify you from disability. If there are special conditions in your current job that offset your income, then those will be considered. Special conditions may include:
- Required special assistance from other coworkers to perform at work.
- Were allowed irregular hours or frequent breaks to rest.
- Were provided with special equipment or assigned special work.
- Did your work under specially arranged circumstances.
- Were permitted to work at a lower standard productivity or efficiency.
- Were working because of a family relationship or past association with the employer.
Can My Claim Be Denied Due to SGA?
Yes. If you make over the threshold and there are no special circumstances under which you work, then you may be denied SSD. This indicates that you are able to perform SGA, and you should be able to function in a normal job. Thus, you would not need disability benefits.
Can I Get Disability Benefits If I Stop Working?
If you stop working, you must prove that it’s because your condition worsened. If you stop because of SGA limits, chances are you won’t get approved for disability benefits. You must have medical records and evidence that show you were unable to continue SGA.
If you worked for a period of six months or less, the SSA may consider your job an “unsuccessful work attempt.” This allows them to disregard the income you made even if it was above the limits for SGA. When evaluating SGA, the SSA will not consider your earnings from an unsuccessful work attempt.
What If I’m Self-Employed?
You can still qualify for disability if you own your own business or you’re self-employed. The SSA will evaluate your SGA with the same income limit thresholds. It will also consider these “Three Tests” to determine if your business activity is actually SGA. You must:
- Provide a significant service to the business and receive substantial income from it.
- Perform work that’s comparable to those without disability.
- Perform work that’s worth $1,180 or more in value to the business.
Impairment-related work expenses will be deducted from your income or your contribution to the company.
Speak to a Springfield IL Disability Attorney Today
It’s important to understand where you stand in terms of substantial gainful activity before you submit your disability application. Contact disability attorney Donald J. Hanrahan to learn more about your claim.