If you suffered an injury or illness preventing you from continuing to work, Charlotte’s Clauson Law Firm specializes in helping people like you get the disability benefit payments you deserve. If you worked for years and had your payroll taxes deducted pay period after pay period, or if you paid self-employment taxes because you ran your own business, you probably qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) benefits.
Even if you did not previously work, if you are suffering from a long-term disability, you probably qualify to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as a member of our community. We want to help you receive the monthly financial support to which you are entitled if you meet the criteria for these badly needed payments.
Do you qualify for disability payments from either the SSD program or the SSI program? The two programs provide different monthly benefit payments to disabled Americans, but they both use the same criteria to determine what is a “disability.” According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a benefit qualifying disability is “a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months (or result in death) and prevents you from performing ‘substantial gainful activities.’”
What is “Substantial Gainful Activity? (SGA)” — The federal government measures whether a person is disabled enough for SSD or SSI benefits by setting an amount of monthly income that disqualifies you if you can earn more than that set amount. In 2022, the SGA is set at $1,350. If your impairments are such that the SSA determines you can still earn more than $1,350 per month by doing some kind of work, then you are not considered disabled. Vision impaired disability applicants, designated as blind by the SSA, can earn as much as $2,260 per month and retain their “disabled” status for purposes of disability benefits.
If a person making $15 per hour can work 20 hours or more each week, their income may seem too high to qualify for benefits. However, not every dollar earned counts. There are a number of substantial deductions allowed that may keep you eligible for SSD benefits even if your gross pay seems to exceed the $1,350 income cap. (The SSI program uses different income eligibility caps. Call Clauson Law for details on SSI eligibility requirements)
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not count every dollar you earn toward the SGA income cap of $1,350. To be fair and reasonable, the SSA realizes that your physical or mental impairment(s) may require you to spend money on work-related expenses because of your disability.
For example, if an applicant for SSD benefits is earning $1,900 per month; it looks like they are over the SGA limit, right?
Now let’s say that person needs to use a motorized scooter for mobility that cost them $1,999 to buy. They pay a monthly note on the scooter of $166.58. And let’s also say that they need to visit their doctor three times each month and they need therapy three times a week. Each visit they need to pay the doctor a $25 copay, and their therapist sessions require a $30 copay.
Adding those costs together:
Are there other expenses we haven’t accounted for? In this simple exercise, we just want to illustrate that every disabled person spends out-of-pocket to accommodate their own impairment. Those expenses are exempted from counting toward your income cap to qualify for SSD or SSI benefits.
The Clauson Law Firm is expert at identifying every potential deductible expense our clients are entitled to take and we usually find many the client did not think of. The SSA implemented this system of only counting “countable” income because it wants every applicant to take advantage of each deduction they deserve.
Another allowance the Social Security Administration invites applicants and benefit recipients to take is called “income averaging.” Each SSD recipient is required to report their monthly income each month to the SSA in order to confirm whether they are still eligible to receive an SSD benefit payment.
What happens if your disability is such that you can perform some work and that you earn more one month than another, or if your income fluctuates? Some months your income is below the $1,350 cap and other months you earn more that the $1,350 after all deductions. Instead of granting your payments in an on-again-off-again pattern, the Social Security Administration encourages you to average your monthly income.
If the averaging period is set at 12 months, the income you earn for each of the 12 months will be added together and then divided by 12. The result is an average of those 12 monthly incomes. If your income was usually beneath the SGA income cap with only a few months exceeding the cap, your average income will probably remain well withing an eligible limit.
Our entire team at Charlotte’s Clauson Law Firm office is eager to answer your questions and to help you get the disability benefits you and your family are entitled to. We’ll do all the leg work, relieve you of all the paperwork, and guide your disability application package through the Social Security bureaucracy as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We want you to receive your disability benefits because you earned them.