Step 1: Gainful Employment Disability Law Is All We Do

Determining Tulsa Social Security Eligibility

Work activity can majorly affect your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. For example, if you engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA), the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not consider you disabled. However, defining what types of work qualify as SGA can quickly become complicated. The SSA uses this term in a broad sense to mean both the level of activity and the payment the work provides an individual with a disability.

However, how the administration measures this varies depending on a number of factors, such as:

  • What type of work you are doing
  • Receiving payment for your work
  • The amount of your earnings
  • Whether the job offers physical or mental activities

The husband and wife pair of attorneys who created the firm, as well as their team of experienced lawyers, can represent you at every stage of the Social Security process. This includes determining disability and application reconsideration. If you are determining your Social Security eligibility for benefits, then our experienced Tulsa Social Security Disability attorneys can answer your questions. We can discuss your ability to work while receiving disability benefits.

How Does the SSA Define Substantial Gainful Activity?

The administration will typically not find a claimant (the person filing for disability) disabled if he or she is working and this work constitutes as both substantial and gainful.

Any type of job may qualify as a substantial gainful activity if it falls under the following:

  • Substantial work involves doing significant physical or mental activities. Even part-time work can be a substantial activity.
  • Gainful work is usually done for pay or profit, whether or not you actually realized a profit (gained money). In some cases, working as a volunteer may prove to the SSA that you have the ability to be employed at a level of work considered SGA.

How Much Can I Make on SSI? SSI Income Limits

Depending on the type of work involved, the definition of SGA and the amount of income that may disqualify you for benefits could apply differently.

For example, if you are:

  • An employee. As of 2017, if you are an employee of someone else, and you make more than $1,170 per month, the SSA generally considers this work SGA. Generally, most jobs offering this amount of income may be substantial and gainful. This includes whether you work full time or part time. If you are in a sheltered work environment (also called a workshop or work center) or part of the money paid to you is not for the work you perform, it may not be SGA.
  • Self-employed. Since the profits from self-employment or farming may not relate to efforts that are physical or mental activities, income from this type of work will not determine whether the work was SGA. The Social Security Administration must attempt to determine the value of your work to the business, regardless of the profit you made. As of 2017, if the value of your work is more than $1,170 per month, it is SGA, even if your business or farm operated at a loss.
  • Working in a sheltered environment. Those working in a sheltered environment may receive more payment than the actual value of their work. This overpayment amount is a subsidy. Subsidies are not included when evaluating if the work is SGA. The Social Security Administration will determine the “reasonable worth” of the work performed, instead of the actual amount paid. As of 2017, if the reasonable worth of the work is more than $1,170 per month, it is SGA.
  • Have other income. SGA does not generally include income from other sources, such as investments or rent, unless this income is because of your experience, skills, supervision and responsibilities. However, passive income, the value of your assets and amount of state supplement benefits are all factors that may put you over the earned income limits of SSI.
  • Your spouse's income is a factor. Since SSI is an income-based program, your household income could have an effect on your benefits. This means your spouse's income could play a role in how much benefits you can get.

Can I Receive Disability While Working?

Individuals wanting to work who currently receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be concerned about their ability to rejoin the workforce. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers a number of programs that can allow those on SSI or SSDI to return to work without, or without immediately, losing disability payments. Understanding whether your employment qualifies as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is crucial when determining if you can continue receiving disability while working, of if working will drastically affect or end these benefits.

Understanding SSDI Benefits and Working

The rules for SSI differ from the rules for SSDI. Typically, those receiving SSDI cannot continue receiving benefits if they start participating in SGA. The administration encourages SSDI recipients to return to work if able.

In fact, it provides a number of safety nets to help you do so, including:

  • Trial Work Period. This enables you to test the waters to see if you can work. During the trial work period, you continue to receive your full monthly SSDI payment. This means if you find you are unable to work, your benefits will continue uninterrupted. You are entitled to nine trial work months over a 60-month period. In 2022, the SSA defined a trial work month as any month in which a person earned more than $970 in wages.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility. Once you exhaust your trial work months, you will have an extended period of eligibility for 36 months. During this time, you can work and still receive SSDI benefits for any month you do not have “substantial” earnings. The SSA defined substantial earnings as more than $1,170 per month or $2,260 for the blind. However, these numbers vary from year to year. The SSA typically deducts disability-related work expenses, such as counseling services and special transportation, from your earnings.
  • Expedited Reinstatement. Once your SSDI benefits stop due to substantial gainful activity, you are eligible for expedited reinstatement for the next five years.

How Much Can I Make And Still Receive Disability Benefits?

In some cases, you can continue to work and still receive your monthly benefits from either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does place limits on how much you can earn each month and still qualify for payments. These limits are different for each program and apply to only certain types of income in each case.

Hand holding money‚ÄčThe rules and exceptions surrounding Social Security income limits are complex. However, the Tulsa Social Security Disability attorneys at Troutman & Troutman, P.C. can explain how these restrictions relate to your unique situation. Disability law is all we do, and our legal team always stays up to date with the latest adjustments to income limits and payments. If you have questions about your income, assets or benefits, then we can help.

What are the Social Security Income Limits for SSDI?

SSDI provides monthly benefits to people whose ability to work is limited by a disability. However, this does not mean that you cannot work at all if you receive disability benefits. Instead, the SSA determines your eligibility for these payments based in part on your ability to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). Income level is one of the ways SGA is measured, although there are other factors. The amount you make from substantial gainful activity is either the actual income you receive or the value of your work, if you are self-employed. If you make more than the income limit for SSDI, you cannot receive disability payments.

The Social Security income limits for SSDI as of 2022 are:

  • $1,350 per month for non-blind beneficiaries.
  • $2,260 per month for blind beneficiaries.

However, these limits do not include every kind of income. Only the amount that you earn by working while you are also receiving disability benefits counts. The SSA does not count your unearned income toward these monthly limits. Unearned or passive income includes payments from investments, retirement funds or trusts, as well as SSI and/or unemployment benefits. If you own intellectual property or real estate, your royalties and collected rent are also types of unearned income.

What are the SSI Income Limits?

The Social Security income limits for SSI are more complicated, since this program is designed to benefit those with low incomes and few assets for any reason, as opposed to those who cannot work due to a disability. First, to qualify for SSI benefits, you must have “few assets.” This means no more than $2,000 in money and property, for an individual. Couples may have $3,000 in assets.

Then, the SSI income limits depend on your countable income only, not your gross monthly income. In determining your countable income, the SSA considers not only your earned income, but also the value of items, food and shelter you receive free.

However, the SSA deducts certain amounts from this calculation, including:

  • The first $20 of your total income each month.
  • Of your earned income (from work), the SSA excludes the first $65 plus one half of the rest of your earnings.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (also known as food stamps).
  • Income tax refunds.
  • Small gifts or other amounts received irregularly.
  • Loans that you must repay.
  • Benefits from nonprofit agencies.
  • Grants or scholarships for education.
  • Need-based assistance from the state or local government.
  • Income saved for a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS).
  • For students only, income up to $1,790 per month (Student Earned Income Exclusion).
  • For disabled individuals, value of work expenses related to his or her impairment (Impairment-Related Work Expenses).
  • Money others may use to pay your expenses.

For 2022, the countable SSI income limits are:

  • $841per month for an individual.
  • $1,261 per month for a couple.

The SSA deducts your countable income from your total SSI payment, which can be up to $841 for an individual and $1,261 for a couple per month. If you make more than the SSI income limits, then you cannot qualify for benefits.

You should also note when COLA increases affect programs such as food stamps.

Call a Tulsa Disability Attorney to Learn More about Disability Payments and Working

If you are working in a position not considered substantial or gainful, you may be eligible for Tulsa SSI benefits. However, the administration takes into account many other factors during an SGA Social Security eligibility determination. A disability attorney can better explain how your work situation could impact your ability to gain SSD benefits.

At Troutman & Troutman, P.C., Social Security Disability is all we do. The firm does not practice in any other legal field. This then allows us to put our entire focus and centralized knowledge on gaining the benefits our clients need.

If you have any questions about qualifying for SSI and SSDI or need assistance with your Social Security claim, we can help. Please contact our firm to schedule a free evaluation of your case today.

Why Choose Troutman & Troutman?

  • Committed to Keeping You Informed

    We understand that this can be a stressful and confusing time which, is why we pride ourselves on doing everything we can to keep you informed and knowledgeable about your case. Not only do we have an array of video and FAQs, but we also allow you direct access to your dedicated attorney.

  • Dedicated & Trusted Counsel

    Our attorneys are passionate about disability law. Everyone who works at our firm is here because they believe in helping people. We commit to representing clients through every part of the Social Security Disability claims process.

  • Over 25 Years of Dedicated Experience

    Since 1993, our attorneys have been helping people throughout Oklahoma get the Social Security benefits they deserve. Regardless of where you are in your case, our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys are here to help you obtain what you deserve.

  • Disability Law Is All We Do

    Social Security Disability is a unique area of the law because it is about representing clients going through very difficult times. We help by getting people the benefits they have earned and deserve. Our firm is proud of the fact that disability law is all we do.

    I didn't think there was a caring professional considerate attorney firm on the planet, but Troutman & Troutman proved me wrong. From the receptionist to the legal assistance to the attorney and more they were exceptional people.

    - Robert S.

    They did a fantastic job getting everything gathered up and getting the trial done as quickly as possible. Anytime I had a question they were patient and help me understand what was going on. Especially Christy and Charlie were great.

    - Michael M.

    Steve Troutman was able to get my short-term and long-term disability for me. Then Erin another lawyer for their firm got my Social security disability for me. Great people.

    - Billy S.

    Mr. Troutman walked me through the entire process. Heather was available each time I called, answered all my crazy questions, and helped me fill out forms along the way. I was never treated like I was wasting time.

    - Julia C.

    Erin and Keith were fabulous! They were compassionate, helpful, and very responsive! They made the process very smooth and painless every step of the way.

    - Valerie W.

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