Every Tuesday, Social Security Attorney Taylor Potts will expose some of the more frequent myths surrounding Social Security Benefits. Be sure to “like” our Facebook page and stop back each week as Attorney Potts takes you through The Twilight Zone – Social Security Style. If you have questions about Social Security Disability or VA Disability benefits, contact Attorney Taylor Potts at (304) 845-9750.
Myth #5: Any Work Precludes Disability
You are about to enter a land beyond what many of us know. A land that could almost be considered a different dimension. A dimension of medical records, vocational classifications, administrative law judges, and functional limitations. Strap yourself in and get ready as we enter the twilight zone of Social Security Disability benefits.
WARNING! PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Social Security Disability can be a strange and confusing land, but allow me to be your guide as we (hopefully) shed some of this mystery and bring it back into the realm of reality. In this series we will take some of the most common (12 to be exact) misunderstandings, or myths, about Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income and help explain why these myths are not necessarily true and why the myths became so pervasive.
THE FIRST QUESTION ASKED … ARE YOU WORKING!
For the most part, Social Security “asks” seven questions when making the decision on an individual’s disability benefits. The first of which is, “are you engaged in significant gainful activity?” In plain English, “are you currently working and earning enough money to be considered full-time by Social Security’s rules?” If the answer is yes, and you are working and earning income at or above Social Security’s level, then the examiner or administrative law judge would look no further into your claim.
They will not consider your medical conditions or anything else about your claim. Regardless of whether you would otherwise be considered medically disabled, they will simply deny your claim based on your level of earnings. However, just because you have earnings doesn’t mean your claim for Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income will be denied. In fact, you can still work and earn income to a certain level and be eligible for disability benefits.
HOW MUCH INCOME IS TOO MUCH?
This question may be one of the easier to answer in regards to disability, but there are a number of important factors to consider. As mentioned previously, Social Security considers “significant gainful activity” (SGA) as a means to determine whether you are considered working full-time. However, each year the SGA level changes to account for inflation, the national average wage, and other considerations.
For 2020, the monthly SGA allowed is $1,260.00 or less. Meaning that if you earn more than $1,260.00 from work in a given month, you are not considered disabled regardless of your health problems. This is true for claims of Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, and other types of disability benefits. In years past, SGA was lower ($1,220 in 2019 and $1,180 in 2018), and it is recalculated each year by Social Security.
Furthermore, SGA levels depend on why you are claiming disability. SGA levels are different for those who are claiming disability due to blindness or vision issues. The law grants these claims a higher monthly SGA amount than those claiming disability for other reasons. For instance, in 2020, SGA for blindness disability claims is $2,110.00 per month as opposed to the $1,260.00 noted before. While SGA for blindness also changes from year to year, this amount will always be higher than SGA for other disability claims. Please keep in mind that this is a basic approach to SGA and how it interacts with disability benefits claims and eligibility.
There are countless interactions depending on years the earnings occurred, the type of benefits applied for, why you are claiming disability, and even how long you have been above SGA levels. These situations and calculations can be quite confusing. Contact me at (304) 845-9750 and I would be happy to go over your situation with you and determine if you are eligible for benefits.
EFFECTS OF INCOME ON DIFFERENT TYPES OF BENEFITS
Unfortunately, SGA concerns are not the only consideration when income is in question. For instance, when determining qualified income in relation to solely Disability Insurance benefits, only income that is earned from work/labor is considered by the Social Security Administration. Did I lose you? This can be confusing, so do not hesitate to contact me at (304) 845-9750 and I can assist you. In most cases, income earned through investment or happenstance (i.e. inheritances, lottery winnings, stock value increases, etc.) does not impact your qualification for Disability Insurance benefits. On the other hand, Supplemental Security Income does count any income regardless of its source. Likewise with SSI benefits, while the $1,260.00 SGA limits might not prevent you from qualifying for benefits, your earnings will be deducted from your monthly SSI amount of $781.00. This means that any back pay you receive would be reduced by your income. Ultimately, your back pay could be reduced to $0.00 per month. For a further, more detailed explanation of how income affects social security benefits of various types see our prior blog series: Modern Day Beverly Hillbillies. As mentioned, this can be extremely confusing so do not hesitate to contact me a call at (304) 845-9750 so we can discuss your unique situation.
CONCERNED OR DENIED? WE CAN HELP!
We have helped many individuals obtain the Social Security Disability benefits they have earned. Chances are, we can help you too. We know the social security system, and we understand how difficult it is to be disabled and have very little or no source of income. It is hard to have no income. It is even harder when you might not be able to have income for years as your disability claim proceeds through the Social Security process.
However, that might not be necessary for you. If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, Survivors Benefits, VA Disability Benefits or some other form of disability benefits, don’t struggle through the process alone.
Contact Gold, Khourey & Turak at (304) 845-9750 for a free consultation. We have the experience and knowledge to help you pursue your claim for disability benefits, and to assist you with the difficulties with the social security system.
Likewise, if your claim for Social Security Disability benefits has been denied, or you have been notified that you are no longer eligible and your benefits have ceased, do not wait! You only have 60 days to appeal that decision, regardless of whether it is due to too much income or for medical reasons. Our consultations are free, and there is never a fee until we obtain benefits for you. Contact our office today at (304) 845-9750.