The Federal Social Security Disability programs fall into two categories: needs-based and work-based programs. Both the SSDI and SSI programs approve or deny claims using the same definition of disability which provides guidance as to how many hours you can work while receiving disability benefits.
How Many Hours Can You Work on Disability?
The Federal Code of Regulations contains Social Security’s definition of disability. The definition reads as follows: “The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
The term “substantial gainful activity” is how the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines whether an individual is working too many hours to qualify for benefits. To meet the definition, a claimant must have a severe physical or mental impairment, supported by medical records and evidence, that prevents them from working at substantial levels. And, the impairment must last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
What is Substantial Gainful Activity?
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is a limit, not a type of work. This means that anyone who has the ability to perform work that pays them more than the SGA limit does not qualify for disability benefits. SSA sets new limits each year and they generally change with changes in the national average wage index. When the wage index increases, SGA limits increase. When the wage index decreases, SGA limits decrease.
SGA limits also differ based on whether a person is blind or not blind. The monthly SGA amount for blind individuals in 2022 is $2,200. The monthly SGA amount for non-blind individuals for 2022 is $1,350. The higher SGA amount for blind individuals only applies to the work-based Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, not the needs-based Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
When the SSA is receiving a disability claim for approval, they will review an individual’s prior work history and current working situation to determine if they can work at “substantial” levels. In 2022, that means that a non-blind individual’s impairment must be severe enough to limit them from earning $1,350 monthly. Or, if they are blind and applying for SSDI, their impairment must prevent them from earning $2,200 monthly.
It’s important to also clarify that the SSA does not simply look at whether you are able to exceed the SGA limit in your current or past work. They’ll consider whether you can adjust to new work and have the potential to work at a substantial level in the future regardless of whether you are working now or not.
Can You Get Disability and Still Work?
Most people who are still working do not qualify for disability benefits. This is because the SGA limit of $1,350 per month is relatively low. As an example, if you earn $10 an hour and work for more than 30 hours per week, your earnings will exceed SGA.
Disability benefits are reserved for individuals with severe impairments who cannot perform existing work or adjust to new work. As a rule, we generally advise clients who can work more than 30 hours per week to avoid filing for disability.
Disability Lawyers in Charlotte, NC
We hope you enjoyed this content provided by Collins Price, PLLC, a North Carolina Disability law firm with a decade of experience serving thousands of claimants throughout the state. If you’re looking for experienced disability lawyers in Charlotte, NC, we’d be happy to provide you a free consultation on your claim. As a reminder, there is no obligation to hire our firm and no fee for our services unless we win your claim.