In an earlier post, I provided a quick overview of the role that Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) plays in the disability process, an earnings amount that the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) looks at when determining one’s eligibility for benefits. If you make more than SGA, you are not eligible for benefits, if you make less then you might be. I say might be, because SSA is still going to look at the work you are performing at any time that you are claiming to be too disabled to work. In other words, you can do some work activity and still be found disabled, but SSA is going to consider any work in their overall decision. More specifically, SSA will look at the type of work, the number of hours, the rate of pay, the specific job duties, and any other relevant information about the work activity. As a general rule, SSA is looking at whether the work demonstrates an ability to work at above-SGA levels or is otherwise inconsistent with the type of disability involved in the application. For example, if you are claiming a severe back injury and working at a very physically demanding job, even if your earnings are below SGA, the type of work that you are performing is not consistent with the claim, and SSA will factor this into their decision.
So as you can see, the key is to be truthful in your application and your actions. If you tell SSA one thing and do the exact opposite, you may run into serious problems in your claim. Some individuals are fortunate enough to do some work activity and receive benefits at the same time. They must do work that is consistent with their claim for benefits, and must keep SSA appraised of any earnings and changes in their work activity. This requires keeping track of all paystubs or other earnings documentation, and communicating any changes to SSA.