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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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