One of the primary concerns of disability applicants is whether they have to stop working to apply for disability. The worry is that, if it appears the applicant is still able to work, disability may be denied. Although your ability to work is a factor that will be considered, applicants are usually not required to stop working completely, in order to apply for Social Security Disability. Depending on your situation, you may need to reduce your work hours. Here is how it works.
Understanding Substantial Gainful Activity
Whether you can continue to work while applying for disability depends on how much you earn. This is true regardless of your medical condition. The term “substantial gainful activity” or SGA, refers to the amount of income you can earn, while still being eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Any amount over the SGA amount, as determined by the Social Security Administration, is considered substantial gainful activity and can disqualify you for benefits. The current SGA limit is $1,090.00 per month. For blind workers the SGA is $1,820.00. The analysis is somewhat different for self-employed workers.
The SGA applies regardless of your condition
Workers that have a documented medical condition, causing them to earn substantially less income each month, or resulting in a reduction of their hours to part-time, are still subject to the SGA rule. Unfortunately, no exception is made for people who continue to work despite severe pain or fatigue.
Substantial accommodations may be considered
An exception may be made, however, if you require significant accommodations in order to perform your job, such as aid from co-workers or assistive devices. If this is the case, the Social Security Administration may adjust your income accordingly, making you eligible for benefits. It depends on each applicant’s specific situation.
Can I still be denied if I make less than SGA
Generally speaking, you will not be denied Social Security disability benefits if you are earning less than the SGA amount. But, if you can work a substantial amount of time (despite the low income), that fact will be considered during the evaluation of your application. These rules do not apply, though, if you have a medical condition that qualifies you for disability benefits automatically. Some of those conditions include statutory blindness, ALS, organ transplant recipient, and others.
How long have you been unable to work?
Some people have the mistaken notion that they must have been unable to work for 12 months before they can file for Social Security disability. Perhaps they are confusing the requirement that your disability (medical condition) either have lasted for 12 months, or be expected to last that long. Consult with your social security disability attorney for more advice on applying for disability benefits.
If you have questions regarding substantial gainful activity, or any other Social Security Disability issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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