Social Security doesn’t decide if you are disabled based on whether you can do your old job. While that is one of the factors, that is not how the law defines “disabled” in the context of Social Security Disability. Disabled is defined as being unable to “engage in substantial gainful activity” due to a physical or mental impairment. The impairment (or disability) must have lasted for 12 months or be expected to last for 12 months or result in death.
Many people who file for disability get hung up on the “substantial gainful activity” part. This does not mean that you are disabled if you can’t do the work you used to do. It means you are disabled if you can’t do your old job and that you can’t work in any other job in the nation—even if that job is not available in your area and even if there are no vacancies for that job. To decide this if you can work in any other job Social Security will look at your age, education, and work experience.
While you must not be able to work, that does not mean that you have to be completely idle. Some people can work a few hours a week and still be considered disabled. To determine if you are unable to work due to your disability, Social Security engages in a complex analysis to determine if the work you are doing is engaging in “substantial gainful activity.” The easiest way to determine if a claimant is working is to look at how much money you are earning. In 2012, Social Security increased the amount of money you can earn to $1,010 a month. In other words, if you are disabled but are able to earn at least $1,010 a month in any job—not just the job you did before you became disabled—Social Security will say that you are not entitled to disability benefits.
If you have more questions, contact our Houston Social Security Attorney at 713.993.7311.