Good morning young Hobbits! I am at a Hobbiton where they filmed parts of the Lord of the Rings movies here in Matamata, New Zealand. Even though I still feel hungry even after my second breakfast, I’ll answer a question from Franklin.
I have a chronic condition that has gotten worse over the years. But, I have forced myself to keep working as much as I can. Because of my condition, I’ve had to cut down my work hours the last couple of years so my pay has been only a few hundred dollars a month. I’ve thought about applying for Social Security disability, but I heard that you can’t if you’re working. What can I do?
That is a common misconception. A person can apply for and possibly receive either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability payments while still working.
To be eligible the person must:
- have a disability and have enough work credits for SSDI, or
- meet certain income and resource requirements for SSI.
Also, if the Social Security Administration decides that the person’s current work is substantial, the application for benefits will be denied regardless of the severity of the disability.
People are considered to have a disability for Social Security benefits if they have a mental or physical condition that prevents them from engaging in substantial work activity and the condition has lasted or is expected to last twelve months or end in death. So, if someone is doing substantial work despite having a disability, that person is not eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
The key factor in determining if a person’s work is substantial, is the extent and value of the work activity. What Social Security considers substantial work is usually reflected by the amount of a person’s work earnings.
In 2014, the amount of work earnings that Social Security considers substantial is monthly gross wages of $1,070; the amount is $1,800 for blind individuals applying for SSDI (under the SSI program, the SGA test is not applicable to those who are blind.) The SGA amount normally increases a few dollars every year. So, if a person is earning above this set amount when applying for benefits, he or she is engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA) and will not be entitled to disability benefits.
Social Security does take into account certain special conditions and circumstances that a person is working under and so may not count your entire work earnings in an SGA evaluation. For example, if you are being paid a monthly wage that exceeds the SGA amount but is not actually earning the full amount (that is, the employer is paying the person more than the value of his or her services or providing special help), Social Security will disregard whatever portion of the wages that the person is not really earning in deciding if the work is SGA.
Based on what you said, you should contact Social Security about filing an application for disability benefits.
The next tour is about to start, so off I go to see some Hobbit Holes and The Green Dragon Inn! Until my next adventure…