Social Security decides whether you are disabled using a five-step process called the Sequential Evaluation Process. This process is a critical part of their evaluation to help them determine if you qualify for social security disability benefits.
The first step is quite simple: the SSA wants to know, are you earning any money? And if you are, is the job you’re working and the money you’re earning considered “substantial gainful activity”?
A Complicated Way Of Looking At Something Simple
The SSA defines the “gainful” part of “substantial gainful activity” (or “SGA”) for 2019 as the gross earning, before taxes, of:
- $1,220 per month (on average) for a sighted person
- $2,040 per month (on average) for a blind person
(You can see the most up-to-date listings of SGA amounts at the SSA’s website.)
The SSA defines the “substantial” part of “substantial gainful activity” as being competitive work. This means the kind of work where workers are expected to work normal shifts, full-time, and meet productivity or performance standards, where there is no particular accommodation for disability,
It’s important to remember that while all Substantial Gainful Activity is work, not all work is considered Substantial Gainful Activity – so there is a chance a person can make more than the limit but still be considered disabled.
Working While Disabled
The SSA publishes a guide to working while disabled. It’s called the Red Book, and it’s a very helpful resource.
The SSA Red Book discusses such issues such as returning to work while receiving benefits, working part-time, engaging in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”), what factors will cause benefits to stop, what your reporting responsibilities are, unsuccessful work attempts, trial work periods, and employment supports for disabled people receiving benefits. The ultimate goal for many SSDI and SSI recipients is to become well enough to work again, at least to some degree. The SSA’s Red Book is a helpful guide as you consider these issues.
Using the definition of SGA, it is possible to be working while disabled, and it’s even possible to earn more than the $1,220 or $2,040 limit and still be disabled, and it’s possible to apply for SSDI while still working, but it can be complicated.
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If I Am Not Engaged In “Substantial Gainful Activity” Do I Qualify For SSDI?
Not earning enough money to cross the SGA threshold is only the first step in the qualification process. You’ll also need to demonstrate:
- that you have a severe impairment; and
- that the impairment meets or equals a listed impairment; or
- that you cannot continue in your previous line of work; and
- and then the SSA will evaluate whether or not there is other work you can do based on your skills, age, education, and “residual functional capacity.”
About Citizens Disability, LLC:
Since 2010, Citizens Disability has been America’s premier Social Security Disability institution. Our services include helping people in applying for SSDI benefits, managing the process through Reconsideration, and representing people in person at their Hearing, and if necessary, bringing their case to the Appeals Council. Our mission is to give a voice to the millions of Americans who are disabled and unable to work, helping them receive the Social Security Disability benefits to which they may be entitled. Learn more about us and disability benefits like SSDI & SSI or give us a call (800)492-3260.
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