Charlotte disability lawyers explain “substantial gainful activity” for self-employed claimants

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As Charlotte disability lawyers, we have helped many self-employed individuals through the Social Security disability application and appeals process. In every case, the Social Security Administration uses the same 5-step sequential evaluation process to make a disability determination. The very first step in that process requires the claimant to prove he is not presently working - that is, not presently engaged in "substantial gainful activity" ("SGA"). For self-employed claimants (but not, generally, for claimants employed by another person or entity), clearing the SGA hurdle can be a challenge.

If you are self-employed, Social Security will determine if you are engaged in SGA by evaluating your work activity and its value to your business, using three tests:

  1. If you are providing significant services and receiving substantial income (that is, income greater than the Earnings Guidelines established in the Social Security regulations), then you are engaging in SGA. Even if you are not receiving substantial income, you still may be found to be engaging in SGA based on tests 2 or 3.
  2. If your work activity is comparable to the work activity of unimpaired individuals in the same community engaged in the same or similar businesses as their means of livelihood, then you are engaged in SGA. Work activity is measured in terms of your hours, skills, responsibilities, duties, efficiency and other relevant factors.
  3. If your work activity is not comparable to that of an unimpaired individual (Test 2), then Social Security will examine the value of your work activity. If your work activity is clearly worth more than the SGA Earnings Guidelines for a particular year, when measured in terms of its value to your business or when compared to the salary an owner would pay to an employee in that same business for performing the same duties, then you are engaged in SGA.

If you are self-employed and struggling to deal with the effects of a severe physical or mental impairment, then you may want to speak with a knowledgeable Charlotte disability lawyer about your work and your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.