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 benefits.
“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.
What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?
Many people who file for disability get hung up on the “substantial gainful activity” part. However, 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 whether you can work in any other job, Social Security will look at your age, education, and work experience.
If I Can Only Work A Little, Am I Disabled?
While the Social Security definition of disability states that you must not be able to work, it does not mean that you have to be completely idle. Some people are able to 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 capable of doing qualifies as engaging in “substantial gainful activity.”
The easiest way to determine if a claimant is performing substantial gainful activity is to look at how much money you are earning. In 2020, Social Security increased the amount of money you can earn up to $1,260 a month if your disability is a condition other than blindness. Those who are blind are able to earn up to $2,110 per month before meeting the substantial gainful activity qualification.
In other words, if you are disabled but are able to earn at least $1,260 a month (or 2,110 if you are blind) in any job — not just your old job — Social Security will say that you are not entitled to disability benefits.
Have more questions about qualifying for Social Security disability benefits? Contact Houston Social Security attorney M. Stanley Whitehead today at (713) 993.7311.