To receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must meet specific criteria. If you are earning money, you can only make up to a certain amount to qualify for benefits. For most people, how many hours you work doesn’t count as much as how much you earn per month on SSDI.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine whether you’re engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA means:
- You are earning more than a certain monthly amount (minus disability-related work costs).
- For 2020, the SGA amount is $1,260 per month. For blind individuals, the SGA is $2,110 per month.
- It’s essential to check the SGA each year, as it can increase.
Most of the time, how much you earn matters more than work hours. However, there are exceptions.
When Do Work Hours Matter for SSDI?
If you earn more than $1,260 per month, the SSA considers you to be “self-supporting.” Hours are not usually what the SSA looks at if you’re on SSDI. However, the hours you work might matter if:
- You are self-employed.
- You are the head of a business, such as an LLC or corporation.
When you work for yourself, you can work hours without receiving an hourly wage. In that case, the SSA will look at how many hours you’ve worked, plus your monthly income.
Social Security typically allows up to 45 hours of work per month if you’re self-employed and on SSDI. That comes out to around 10 hours per week. The SSA will also see whether or not you’re the only person working for your business. You must not be earning SGA, along with not working too many hours.
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What if I Work Many Hours for Someone Else?
Generally, your monthly income matters most for your eligibility. However, working too many hours could affect your case.
For example, maybe you’re working close full-time hours even though you don’t earn over $1,260 per month. The SSA might consider you able to work a full-time job and deny you for benefits. It will be harder to convince Social Security that you’re disabled if you can work many hours.
How Does Social Security Track My Hours Worked While on SSDI?
If you’re self-employed and on SSDI, the SSA will use one of two tests to see if you’re earning SGA:
- The Countable Income Test
- The Three Tests.
Which test the SSA uses will depend on work details like when you started your business and how long you’ve been on SSDI.
Countable Income Test
The SSA will use the Countable Income test if:
- You’ve been on SSDI for over two years.
- You start freelance work or a small business.
The SSA will look at your countable income and any significant services you’re providing.
Countable income is what you earn based on your own work. The SSA will take your net earnings and deduct any:
- Disability-related work costs
- Unpaid help from family members or other people
- Business support someone provides to you at no charge (“unincurred business expenses“)
The SSA will also look to see if you are providing vital services to your business. If you’re the only person working on your business, your services are already significant. If you didn’t work on your business, no one would.
If you have more than one person working for your business, the SSA considers your services as significant if:
- You work over half of the total time necessary to manage your business
- You work over 45 hours per month, managing the business
If your countable income is over SGA, you will no longer be eligible for SSDI benefits. There is one exception. If you can show that you are not providing significant services, you can make over SGA and still qualify.
The Three Tests
If you have been receiving SSDI for less than two years, the SSA will use the Three Tests for your situation.
Here are the three tests:
- Significant services and substantial income test
- Comparability test
- Worth of work test
If any of the three tests show that you’re earning SGA, you will not get SSDI benefits.
1. Significant Services and Substantial Income Test
We’ve covered what significant services means above. This test looks at whether you are providing significant services and making a substantial income.
Your business income is substantial if your countable income is over SGA or your average countable income is not over SGA but what you get from your business is comparable to:
- Your livelihood before your disability
- The lives of non-disabled people in your community with the same type of business
It can be harder to qualify for benefits if the SSA uses this test. If you feel that the results were unfair, contact a Social Security Disability lawyer.
John Foy & Associates can give you a FREE consultation to discuss your situation. To schedule your FREE consultation, call (404) 400-4000, or contact us online.
2. Comparability Test
The SSA will consider you to be earning SGA if your work activity is similar to what non-disabled people in your community do in the same business type. The SSA will look at details like:
- How many hours you work
- Work efficiency and output
- Work responsibilities
3. Worth of Work Test
Social Security might consider your work to be SGA if:
- Your business is obviously worth over SGA in value
- Your business is worth over SGA versus what you’d pay someone else to do your work duties
If you do not pass any of the SSA tests, you could get denied for benefits or lose your current benefits.
In general, how many hours you work while on SSDI does not matter too much. For most employed people, the SSA will look at your monthly income instead. But if you are self-employed, you will need to pay attention to your work hours.
Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer for Free Today
Many disabled individuals struggle to get the SSDI benefits they deserve. If you are worried about losing benefits or not qualifying, talk to John Foy & Associates. With over 20 years of experience, we know how to help you with your SSDI case.
Contact us today for a FREE, no-risk consultation. We do not charge a fee unless we win your case. Call (404) 400-4000 or contact us online to get started for FREE.