There are currently 8.4 million disabled workers receiving a monthly disability check in the United States, along with approximately 1.6 million spouses and children of disabled workers. While Social Security was initially created for retired workers, disability income was added to help those workers who are unable to continue to work and make a living. Each year, the monthly earning thresholds are (at least marginally) increased. The monthly earning thresholds allow a disabled person to earn up to a specific amount of money before disability payments cease.
As an example, in 2019, a disabled worker who is not blind was allowed to make up to $1,220 per month gross (before taxes) without losing disability benefits. For a blind, disabled worker, this threshold was $2,040. For 2020, the threshold has been increased by $40 for a non-blind disabled worker, and $70 for a blind, disabled worker ($1,260 and $2,110, respectively). Disabled workers can work and make these amounts of money from substantial gainful activity, however, anything over this amount could cause the loss of disability benefits.
What is Substantial Gainful Activity?
The Social Security Administration uses the term “substantial gainful activity” to determine eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. To be eligible for disability benefits, a disabled person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity—that is, unable to earn enough money to meet the threshold. In other words, a person who is earning more than a specific monthly amount is considered to be engaging in substantial gainful activity. The specific nature of the disability (blind or non-blind) determines the threshold. Substantial gainful activity is any work done for pay or profit while performing significant duties over a reasonable period of time.
Requirements for Social Security Disability
In addition to not surpassing the substantial gainful activity threshold, the person applying for disability must be considered medically disabled and must have little or no income or resources. Applicants must also have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a sufficient number of years to be covered under Social Security.
Trial Work Period Earnings Threshold
A person receiving Social Security disability benefits can “test” his or her ability to work while still receiving monthly benefit payments. This “test” is administered during a period of nine months in a rolling 60-month period. Essentially, the trial work period is a nine-month “state of grace” given by the Social Security Administration to recipients of disability benefits who are considering re-entry into the workforce.
The underlying idea behind a trial work period is to determine whether the medical condition which qualified the person for disability benefits has improved to the point that the disability recipient could, conceivably, make a living. Social Security disability benefits are not jeopardized during this trial work period, however, the person receiving benefits is required to report work activity, income, and expenses to the Social Security Administration.
At the end of the trial work period, disability benefits may still be received for any month in which the beneficiary does not make more than the substantial gainful activity amount. If the disability benefits are stopped because the substantial gainful activity amount has been exceeded, the recipient is still eligible for Medicare Part A for a minimum of 93 months following the end of the nine-month trial period. At the end of the 93 months, either Medicare Part A coverage may be continued by paying a premium, or Medicare Part B may be continued by paying the premium as was done in the past.
It is important to note that the Social Security Administration is aware that while a person could be successful in returning to work, his or her disability or medical condition could worsen, resulting in an inability to work. If this occurs within five years of when the disability recipient returns to work, an expedited reinstatement could apply, which means there is no need to reapply for benefits, and while the medical condition is being reviewed, the person does not have to wait for benefits.
Contact Our Virginia Social Security Disability Law Firm Today
At Cervoni Disability Law PLLC, we work with our clients to help them obtain all of the benefits to which they are entitled. We work exclusively on Social Security Disability claims. Contact Cervoni Disability Law PLLC for a free consultation at 703-241-2625 or email us. You can also visit our website at or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.