What Are The Income Qualifications For Social Security Disability?
To qualify for SSI, you must have limited income and few assets. Social Security requires SSI recipients to have less than $2,000 in assets, for a single person, and $3,000 for a couple (not counting money in an ABLE account).
The income limit under SSI is more complicated. The way Social Security counts income is based on a formula. Countable income includes wages or any other kind of money you earn from working, plus money you get from other sources like unemployment, Social Security retirement, or gifts from friends, free food or shelter. In addition, to encourage SSI recipients to work, Social Security excludes part of your income from its calculations.
In general, the income limit for SSI is the federal benefit rate (FBR), which is $771 per month for an individual and $1,157 per month for a couple in 2019. Remember, though, that not all income is countable, and so you can earn more than $771 per month and still qualify for SSI (more on this below).
The SSDI program does not put a limit on the amount of assets or unearned income you have (or income that your spouse may earn), unlike the low‑income disability program, SSI.
However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does put a limit on the amount of money that you can earn through work when you receive Social Security disability benefits, because if you can earn a substantial income, you aren’t considered disabled.
Specifically, if you can engage in what the Social Security Administration (SSA) calls “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), you won’t be eligible for SSDI benefits. A person who earns more than a certain monthly amount is considered to be engaging in SGA. Federal regulations use the national average wage index to set the income limit for determining the SGA each year. In 2019, the amount is $1,220 for disabled applicants and $2,040 for blind applicants. The rules differ for business owners, since their monthly income may not reflect the work effort they put into their business.
While a disabled (non-blind) person applying for or receiving SSDI cannot earn more than $1,220 per month by working, a person collecting SSDI can have any amount of (“unearned”) income from investments, interest, or a spouse’s income.
What Constitutes Disability Under Social Security?
For all individuals applying for disability benefits under SSDI or SSI, the definition of disability is the same. The law defines disability as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months”.
Are There Conditions That Automatically Qualify You For Disability?
Documentation is the key to a successful claim. You must have objective medical evidence that shows you are unable to work and that you meet the medical criteria to be approved for benefits. There are a few medical conditions, however, that do qualify for expedited approval. Some conditions automatically qualify for disability benefits if you have a confirmed diagnosis. There are a list of “compassionate” conditions that warrant such approvals.
The compassionate allowances process helps Social Security identify disability claims that involve conditions that always meet the qualifications or criteria of the impairment listings contained in the Social Security disability list of impairments commonly referred to as the Blue Book. Currently, at the time of this writing, there are one hundred and thirteen compassionate allowance conditions with more likely to be added to the list in the years to come.
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