The Social Security definition of “disability” is strict, but you needn’t be totally incapacitated to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
Of course benefits aren’t payable to people who work and earn more than a certain amount. The Social Security Administration (SSA) calls this maximum “substantial gainful activity” or “SGA”.
But if a disabled person earns less than the SGA figure, he or she may qualify for SSDI benefits though working. This means he or she may work while applying, or keep receiving benefits if already qualified.
Earnings averaging over $830 monthly in 2005 are SGA. (The figure is $860 a month in 2006.)
Don’t stop reading if you earn more than this amount. Receiving a monthly paycheck of more than $830 may not mean SSA will count all your income as “earnings.”
“Countable” earnings don’t include things like:
o sick leave,
o profit sharing,
o private disability insurance benefits,
o a spouse’s earnings, or
o wages paid you that exceed the actual value of services you perform.
Extra in-kind support you receive (like ongoing help from other workers) may also reduce your countable earnings. SSA calls this extra pay and support, "subsidy."
SSA also deducts “impairment related work expenses” or "IRWE" when figuring countable earnings. IRWE includes impairment-related items and services you must have in order to work.
In short, although your paycheck may be more than $830 a month, your countable earnings may be less and not disqualify you from SSDI benefits. To learn more about the effect of income and expenses on SSDI benefits, see SSA’s 2005 Red Book.
To follow developments in Social Security disability, visit: www.disabilityfacts.com
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