As a Social Security lawyer, the first step I take in analyzing your claim for disability benefits (either through the Social Security Disability Insurance program or the Supplemental Security Income program) is to determine whether you are engaged in substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity is a set dollar amount for which, if you are earning over the amount, you cannot qualify for disability benefits. The dollar amount threshold is tied to the consumer price index and in 2014 is $1070. If you are blind, the substantial gainful activity amount is $1800. As I often tell clients when visiting with them in our Tallahassee office, it does not matter how severe and debilitating your impairment may be, you are not disabled for purposes of Social Security disability if you are earning over substantial gainful activity. This is shocking to many clients. “Even if I’ve lost both legs and don’t have the use of my hands?” Yes, this is a hard and fast rule. But it is important to understand exactly what substantial gainful activity means before you become discouraged.
Substantial gainful activity is money that you have earned through working. It does not include passive investment income like a rental property or annuity. Also, in some situations referred to as “subsidized employment,” you can still qualify for Social Security disability benefits regardless of receiving over $1070 per month.
I recently helped a Tallahassee resident with a Social Security disability claim for which substantial gainful activity was a clear obstacle. This person had been an integral part of building the small business at which he worked over the past several decades. A serious medical event kept him from working several months and then when he returned to work, he was only able to do a fraction of the work he did prior to his medical condition. Because of his history with the company, he was allowed to stay on and receive the same income despite his clear inability to do the same work of his co-workers at the business. He had previously been told he could not make a claim for Social Security because of his income. By gathering the appropriate evidence, we were able to prove his employment was actually subsidized and thereby clear the hurdle of substantial gainful activity to argue how his medical impairment prevented him form working. I was very happy to hear we got this man’s claim approved. Even better we were able to get him approved at the initial application level, which got him benefits much faster than the average disability claimant.
If you live in Tallahassee, Marianna, Fort Walton Beach, Lake City, Panama City, Thomasville, Valdosta, Albany or any of the surrounding areas and want a free case evaluation from a Social Security Disability lawyer, call today or fill out the form above. There is no need to wait. When in Doubt… Call Liebenhaut.
By: Matt Liebenhaut