Social Security (SSA) law defines disability as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
That’s a mouthful, so let’s break it down:
SGA is measured by SSA as the amount of gross (pre-tax) income an individual is earning per month. For 2015, that’s anyone earning $1,090 per month, so anyone earning less than that could be considered for Social Security disability benefits.
Obviously, there are many other factors that are considered by SSA when finding someone to be disabled, but earning SGA or above is an automatic disapproval. And here’s another big “but”: The fact that you are working, even if you earn less than SGA, may influence the adjudicator of your claim as it is being reviewed.
Can you work and receive SSI disability benefits?
Yes, but there are limitations and income does affect your monthly benefits. If your only income is from your job, SSA does not include the first $85 you earn toward your countable income. After the $85 adjustment, SSA will deduct 50 cents for every dollar you earn from your monthly benefits.
Here’s an example of a person who earns $1,090 a month from working (get ready for a little simple math):
$1,090 – $85 = $985 ÷ 2 = $502.50
The individual’s monthly SSI benefit amount would be reduced by $502.50.
If, because of your disability, you have certain work-related expenses that a non-disabled person does not, SSA will deduct these costs from your monthly earnings when calculating your benefits. Examples of qualifying expenses include special transportation needs or counseling services.
If you are not earning SGA wages because you have a physical or mental impairment, you may want to consider filing for Social Security disability. You can file online at www.ssa.gov, at your local Social Security office or contact Bob Heller at Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., L.P.A. We have been assisting clients with initial applications since 2010 and would be happy to help you.