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Sometimes I work with Erie, Pittsburgh, and other Pennsylvania Social Security disability claimants who are working at the time that they are applying for benefits.

This can make it more difficult to qualify for disability benefits because the first step that the Social Security Administration takes in its “five-step sequential evaluation process” to determine whether you are disabled is to ask whether you are working at a “substantial gainful activity.” If you are, then you may not be entitled to disability benefits.

What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

The Social Security Administration regulations define substantial gainful activity in two parts: substantial work activity and gainful work activity.

Substantial work activity is work activity that involves doing significant physical or mental activities.

Gainful work activity is work activity that you do for pay or profit.

This means that substantial gainful activity is a significant physical or mental activity that you do for pay or profit.

The Social Security Administration then identifies monetary amounts that it defines as substantial. These amounts tend to change frequently.

If you are working then whether or not you are working at a substantial gainful activity will depend in part on how much money you are making.

Calculating whether you are working at less than the substantial gainful activity level

Establishing whether or not you are working at or below the Social Security Administration’s substantial gainful activity level is essentially a mathematical process. That is, the Social Security Administration simply compares your earnings from work with its substantial gainful activity guidelines.

However, there are various deductions and other calculations that go into determining how much you are earning.

The Social Security Administration starts with your gross earnings (rather than your net earnings), and includes bonuses in this amount. However, it only counts earnings from actual work, so sick pay and vacation pay can be deducted from your gross earnings.

Also, except in special circumstances, the earnings are averaged over the time worked. Therefore, even if you have a month that exceeds the substantial gainful activity level, you may qualify when your earnings are averaged.

Also, you may deduct impairment-related work expenses from your monthly earnings. That is, the amount of your earnings is reduced by out-of-pocket payments for medical expenses that you have to treat your disabling impairment. This deduction is available even if the medical items and services are necessary for normal daily activities, and not just for work activities. However, you only get this deduction if you are actually paying for these expenses; the deduction does not apply if the expenses are paid by insurance.

Get experienced help with your Social Security disability claim from a Pennsylvania disability lawyer

If you are working, then it is very important to be careful and accurate in calculating the amount that you are earning. The amount that the Social Security Administration allows you to earn changes frequently, and the rules about deductions and income averaging can be complex. It is even more important in this situation to have skilled assistance from a Social Security disability lawyer.

If you are not already represented by an Erie, Pittsburgh, or other Pennsylvania Social Security disability attorney and want our evaluation, give us a brief description of your claim using the form to the right. Or you may contact us at:

Mansmann & Associates
Western Pennsylvania Social Security disability attorneys

Phone: 888-862-6762
Fax: 877-352-8613

Erie office:
1001 State Street
Erie, PA 16501

Mercer office:
220 W. Venango Street
Mercer, PA 16137