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Social Security Disability and Substantial Gainful Activity

A question that our office often receives is whether or not an applicant for Social Security Disability can work while applying for the disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration will first and foremost determine if you are currently working. They require that an applicant be unable to perform what we call "substantial gainful activity". At this juncture they will not even consider your impairments.

Substantial gainful activity is defined as work that involves significant and productive duties which pays more than the current monthly income limit set by the Social Security Administration.

If a claimant is performing substantial gainful activity, no matter how impaired the claimant is, he or she will not be found disabled.

Stated numerically, substantial gainful activity is work that where you earn over a certain dollar amount per month. In 2015, that amount has increased to $1,090.00, up from $1,070.00 in 2014.

The amount does not include income you obtain from other sources such as gifts or investments.

If you are making more than the above stated amounts, the Social Security Administration will probably assume that you are not be disabled and your claim will most likely be denied immediately. They will not request your medical records or review any records you submit towards your disability since you have been considered ineligible for benefits based on non-medical reasons.

However, lower earnings do not always establish that you're unable to work, nor does high earnings always establish that you were engaged in substantial gainful activity. There are sometimes exceptions to the general rules.

That is why substantial gainful activity can be more than just numbers. Volunteer work or owning a business can be considered substantial gainful activity regardless of the amount of money you are earning. In fact, since work is evaluated without regard to legality, criminal activity may be considered substantial gainful activity.

If you have been approved for, and are already receiving disability benefits, you can continue to make up to $1,090.00 per month without losing your benefits, as long as you still meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disability.

For more information on Social Security Disability, see our website or call us at (347) 201-4447 to speak to a live representative.

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Success Stories

  • A 43 year old ironworker who fell four stories and sustained injuries to his ankle while installing a staircase settled his claim for $1,500,000.00. The accident was due to the failure of the building owner and general contractor to provide a safe place to work.
  • A construction worker operating an asphalt roller settled his case for $525,000.00 when the edge of the roadway he was paving collapsed into a trench being dug by a subcontractor causing him to sustain injuries to his leg.
  • A 54 year old commuter settled his case against the NYCTA for $1,200,000.00. when he tripped and fell on a subway platform due to the pavement being in disrepair, causing him to fall forward and to strike his head on a train pulling into the station.
  • The estate of a 64 year old woman received a settlement of $425,000.00 after she was struck and killed by a speeding tractor trailer while crossing the street at the intersection of Richmond Terrace and Port Richmond Avenue.
  • A $1,200,000.00 settlement was reached on behalf of a 54 year old man from Staten Island, New York, who, while in the course of his employment as a bus driver, was rear-ended on the Garden State Parkway and caused to suffer injuries to his back and neck as well as a fractured rib and fractured pelvis.
  • A 47-year-old building superintendent who sustained injuries to his head and right side of his body due to a tripping hazard at his job site received a settlement of $300,000.00 from the electrical company performing work at the site.
  • A 43 year old construction worker was caused to sustain injuries to his back, shoulder and hand when the elevator he was riding malfunctioned and dropped 8 floors. He received $350,000.00 in the settlement of his claim against the building owner, maintenance company and elevator company.
  • The administrator of the estate of a 69 year old man who suffered stage four pressure sores while a patient at a Queens nursing home settled the case for $400,000.00 after the man died.
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Phone: 347-201-4447
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