*Step 1 - SSA's Sequential Evaluation Process - Multi-Part Series - "SGA"
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
Note: This article is for general information only and is not legal advice to any particular reader or individual. For legal advice, you must specifically retain a lawyer.
As noted by the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are 5 overall steps, in sequence, that must be negotiated, when determining if someone is "disabled" under the SSA laws, rules and regulations. This is referred to as the Sequential Evaluation Process. The VERY first question involves your current work activity (and/or that activity at any time after the date you indicate was the onset of your disability).
1. Are you working?
"If you are working in 2021 and your earnings average more than $1,310 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled. If you are not working, we will send your application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office that will make the decision about your medical condition. The DDS uses Steps 2-5 below to make the decision." (https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/qualify.html#anchor3)
The question of "are you working", has particular meaning. This is generally referred to as SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity). For instance, if you are working two three-hour shifts at $15/hour, you are making $90/week (6X15). Months vary slightly, but with an average 4.3 weeks to the month, you are under the SGA threshold of $1310 a month, at $387 per month. You can apply. However, if you were working 20.5 hours/week at $15/hour, that would be over the $1310 per month**, even though you may be unable to muster through more than 20-21 hours per week. You would not generally be able to have an application processed.*
Note: Don't forget that there is also the notion of the value of activity, even if unpaid, if the activity is the type that would normally be paid, due to having a payable value. This doesn't arise often, but is a consideration if one is engaging in volunteer work or work that brings with it benefits other than a paycheck.
*However, considerations may include IRWEs, subsidized work, net income after business expenses (if self employed/contractor/1099'er), among others. ** SGA amount generally changes every year in an upward direction. For historical view of SGA: https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0410501015