The government has a methodical five-step evaluation process to determine if you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Social Security examiners must follow those five steps in sequential order every time someone walks in their office to find out if they qualify for benefits.
There’s no wiggle room.
We know from firsthand experience. Nearly everyone on our Social Security Disability team previously worked for the Social Security Administration. You must be able to proceed through the first three steps or all five steps in order to be found disabled.
However, if you fail the first step the inquiry ends altogether.
Step 1. Are You Working?
The first step is the one that trips up many people. It is at this step that the inquiry can end abruptly. Here is how this works.
Step 1 asks about your current work status. What many clients do not realize is the weight and importance the government gives to whether or not you are working. It is very telling that your work status is the first question rather than what disability or disabilities you claim to have.
Here is what the Social Security Administration says about work status as it relates to potential benefits:
“At the first step, we consider your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled.”
What is Substantial Gainful Activity?
As you might imagine, the government has a very specific definition as to what substantial and gainful activity means with regard to your potential to receive disability benefits.
Substantial refers to anything you are doing physically or mentally, and can even include part time work or volunteer work.
Gainful is something you get paid to do. But even if you don’t get paid (such as volunteering or helping a friend or family member with their startup business by taping boxes to ship) the Social Security Administration may conclude your activity is gainful if other people usually get paid to do it.
In 2017, substantial gainful activity is defined as earning $1,170 or more monthly ($1,950 for those who are blind).
“Someone Has to Put Food on the Table”
We will sometimes have clients come to us and say they are working only because it is necessary in order to put food on the table for their family. They explain to us how difficult it is for them because of XYZ disability and they are barely getting by. We understand and we empathize. But the government reasons, if you are able to put food on the table today, you can do it tomorrow and the next day. The Social Security Disability Benefits document makes this very clear:
“Social Security pays benefits to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.”
FREE Social Security Disability Case Evaluation
When you are completely unable to work to put food on the table is when you should come see us. Unfortunately, the government ties the hands of all Social Security Disability lawyers unless you say you are not working during Step 1 questioning.
Everyone’s situation is unique and we have helped hundreds in their time of need. If you’d like a FREE case evaluation, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We would love to try to help in any way we can.