Our Social Security New Rochelle attorneys can explain substantial gainful activity and how it affects your case in order to help you determine if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Under certain conditions, the Social Security Administration might still find that you are “disabled” according to the established guidelines even if you continue to work. Your disability lawyer will review various factors when trying to determine benefit eligibility. He or she will ask the following questions:
- What kind of job do you have?
- How much money do you earn?
- What is your role at the company?
- Do you receive additional subsidies?
- Do you spend anything for impairment-related expenses for your job? If so, how much?
Determining the Type of Work That You Do
If you are involved in “substantial gainful activity” at your place of employment, you will not be considered disabled under the SSA guidelines. In order for you to be disqualified, your work needs to meet both of the following criteria:
- “Substantial” – Your work includes significant mental or physical exertion. The SSA might rule that your work is not substantial if you need additional help and direction to do a basic task or if you do very basic tasks that do not challenge you and that provide little if any benefit to the business.
- “Gainful” – People generally do this type of work in order to earn money. The SSA considers consistent work where an employee receives payment to be “gainful.” If the SSA considers the tasks that you perform at your job to be substantial, you might not qualify for SSD benefits, even if the work is not gainful. For example, you might need to show that you cannot do a sedentary task full time. But if you have a part-time, heavy-duty job, you will not qualify for SSD benefits, even if you income falls below the threshold amount. The SSA will see that you are doing heavy-duty work even for a few hours per week, and they will rule that you can probably hold down full-time sedentary work. Talk to one of our knowledgeable lawyers for additional Social Security disability hearing tips.
What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?
SGA is typically work that brings in a certain amount of money. For 2019, the amount that qualifies is $1,220 per month for people who are not blind, and $2,040 per month for people who are blind. If you make more than that amount per month, the Social Security Administration may not approve your SSD application. In that situation, they presume that you do not have a disability and you “are able to engage in competitive employment.”
It’s important to note that the SSA does not count gifts, interest, investments, and other non-work sources as income. However, the SSA may count volunteer work and even criminal activity as substantial gainful activity if they represent substantial work that a person would normally be paid for. SSA will not consider hobbies and school as SGA.
A high income does not necessarily mean that the SSA will deny you. It depends on the type of work and whether the claimant had special conditions. For example, a claimant may argue that their income would have been lower, except for the fact that they:
- Had special assistance from others at work
- Were allowed to work irregular hours or take frequent breaks
- Had special equipment to help do the work
- Had special circumstances at work
- Were permitted a lower standard of productivity or efficiency
- Worked despite their impairment because of a relationship with the employer
Subsidized Employment and SGA
Some people receive more pay than their work is actually valued. This is called “subsidized employment.” It often happens when a business owner knows the worker well or is a relative of the individual. This may occur in a “sheltered workshop,” owned by friends or family. People receive placements in jobs through vocational rehabilitation may also receive special considerations, including extended rest breaks or reduced productivity standards.
In these situations, the SSA will work to determine the actual value of the work being done by the SSD applicant. If the actual value is under the SGA threshold, then the applicant may still be considered disabled.
Claimants Who Do Not Meet the Minimum Level for “Substantial Gainful Activity”
Our New Rochelle Social Security disability attorneys can help clients determine if they earn less than the minimum threshold amount for the SGA. We take the following steps:
- We calculate your gross earnings.
- Next, we subtract deductions
- We then average your earnings.
- Finally, we compare your wages with the SGA earning guides according to the Social Security regulations, which change annually.
Should I Stop Working?
You should not stop working unless your medical condition becomes so bad that you are unable to work. If you suspect that you have SGA, then you should consult an attorney to evaluate your specific situation. Simply quitting work could lead the SSA to consider your work activity to be an “unsuccessful work attempt.”
If you work for six months or less and are forced to reduce your work time or stop working due to your impairment, then the work you did do will not be considered substantial gainful activity. Your earnings will not be counted against your SSD.
SGA When You Own Your Own Business
The SSA will consider your income from a small business. However, they recognize that a net income of over $1,220 per month for a small business may not reflect your own income. You may not be considered to have SGA even if your business earns over that amount.
The SSA will consider “The Three Tests” when evaluating whether your small business income is SGA:
- Do you provide significant services to the business and receive income that is considered substantial from it?
- Do you perform work comparable to that of someone who is not disabled?
- Is the work you perform valued at $1,180 per month or more?
In evaluating your contribution to the small business, the SSA will also deduct impairment-related work expenses and unincurred business expenses from your net earnings. Unincurred business expenses include contributions made by others to help your small business, especially due to your disabilities. Impairment-related work expenses are costs for medical devices and other items necessary to perform work. The SSA will deduct these expenses from your net earnings and then compare it with the thresholds they have established for SGA.
Substantial Gainful Activity After SSD Claim Approval
You may continue to work after the SSA approves your application. In fact, you can continue to make up to $1,220 per month without threatening your benefits. You must continue to meet SSA’s guidelines for disability.
Continuing benefits rules are different for people who have SSDI vs. SSI.
- SSDI – If you become able to work and make more than $1,220 per month, then the SSA will allow you to make that amount for a certain amount of time before your benefits are cancelled. This is called a trial work period.
- SSI – SSI has many work incentives to encourage people to go back to work. SGA rules do not apply to SSI recipients who have received benefits for a month or more. Instead, SSI has a general income limit that applies.