Lowell, MA SSDI

Knowledgeable Social Security Lawyer Assisting Individuals in Lowell, MA

Only 51% of individuals with disabilities in the Lowell area were employed in 2000, leaving almost half of Lowell’s disabled without earnings to support themselves, their families, and their medical needs. Through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, people who were previously working may be eligible to receive financial benefits.  Massachusetts Social Security attorney Russell J. Goldsmith has represented claimants in Lowell and the surrounding communities for over 28 years. Our legal team is dedicated to providing honest and individualized legal guidance to each client.

Substantial Gainful Activity and Your Eligibility for Benefits

SSDI is a government program that assists qualified individuals who are unable to work due to a disabling medical condition. Under the Social Security Act, an individual has a disability if he or she is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable severe physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for a continuous period of one year or longer, or result in death. One of the requirements for eligibility, therefore, is that your disability prevents you from doing more than a minimal amount of work, otherwise referred to as engaging in substantial gainful activity.

There are many aspects to substantial gainful activity and what it means for SSDI benefits eligibility. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers work to be substantial gainful activity (SGA) when is the type of work ordinarily undertaken for pay, and likewise constitutes earnings above a certainly level each month. For 2017, that amount is $1,170 per month for most applicants, and $1,950 per month for blind applicants. The SGA amount increases each year with the national average wage index, and new tables are published annually by the Social Security Administration. Income from interest, investments, gifts, or other non-work related sources are not included in the Social Security Administration’s determination of whether you are engaging in substantial gainful activity as these items do not involve earned income. Likewise, certain benefit payments such as sick leave, holiday pay and vacation pay may not be considered in the calculation of one’s wages when determining if it is SGA level activity.

It is important to note that earning less than the SGA limit does not automatically prove that you are unable to work or that you meet the definition of disabled as SSA is looking to see if you are able capable of earning SGA level earnings (and not necessarily whether you are). If your earnings are less than the SGA amount, the Social Security Administration will then look to the medical evidence on the record to determine the severity of your condition and whether you are able to do any type of work that would allow you to earn SGA level earnings. Likewise, earning more than the SGA amount does not necessarily mean that you are ineligible for SSDI benefits, although the Social Security Administration will likely deny your initial application. The Social Security Administration will still consider the type of work you are performing when you are earning any amount of money from a job and will determine whether the work performed is considered “substantial”: that is to say, the type of work that is ordinarily undertaken for pay. Generally, if you apply for SSDI benefits and are earning more than the SGA limit from working, the Social Security Administration will find that you are not disabled from earning gainful wages at what is considered Step 1 of the 5 step sequential evaluation process A grant of SSDI benefits while earning more than the SGA limit is rare, and only in circumstances where one is working under special conditions or, potentially, if you are self-employed. A skilled attorney will understand how to present your case in the most favorable light if you are applying for benefits in this situation.

Substantial gainful activity also comes into play if you begin working again after being approved for SSDI benefits. SSA has various incentive programs to encourage individuals to reenter the workforce. If you are already receiving SSDI benefits and your medical impairment has improved to the point where you are able to do some types of work such that you are in a position to attempt work, SSA will allow you to earn more than the SGA limit during a trial work period and still be considered disabled. The Social Security Administration may still review your circumstances during this period of time to determine if there is sufficient improvement in your condition (looking at both medical evidence and other available evidence other than from simply the wages themselves) to determine if there is evidence of medical impairment. The amount of earnings that triggers the trial work period amount, however, is less than the SGA amount. During the trial work period, any month in which you earn over $840 (for 2017) will automatically trigger the trial work period. If your earnings from working for at least nine consecutive or non-consecutive months in a 60-month period exceed that amount, the Social Security Administration will cease SSDI benefits.

However, there still remains a thirty-six (36) months extended period of eligibility where, even if benefits have been ceased given the trial work period months have been used up, one may request benefits for any month in which their monthly income falls below SGA levels without the need to file a new application for benefits. Separate and apart from these rights, one likewise has certain rights to request an expedited reinstatement of benefits (versus the filing of a new application) for a period of 5 years after one’s benefits have been ceased should their earnings fall below SGA levels as a result of the same disabling condition as was the basis for the initial claim that was granted benefits.

Discuss Your SSDI Claim with a Lowell Attorney

If your condition prevents you from working, you may be eligible for benefits. Veteran SSDI lawyer Russell J. Goldsmith provides advice to Lowell residents and New England’s disabled who are applying for benefits at every stage of the process. Contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith to schedule a free initial consultation at 1-800-773-8622 or online.

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