Substantial Gainful Activity in Boston SSDI Cases

If a claimant is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, that means he or she is disabled and has worked enough time in the years leading up to becoming disabled to qualify for disability benefits. The first issue is whether a claimant has paid into the system, which makes them eligible to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Boston.

Paying into the system

Boston SSDI LawyerIf a person owns a motor vehicle, the law requires that person purchase car insurance. There are state minimums in every state including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. When a driver gets a policy, he or she must pay the premium.  If the driver has been paying the premium and gets into an accident, then insurance will cover the damage up to the policy limits in most cases if driver was at-fault. If the premium has not been paid and the policy is allowed to lapse, then the it will be canceled and there will be no insurance coverage. As our Boston Social Security disability benefits attorneys can explain, SSDI workes very much like a private insurance policy. Everyone who works is required to pay taxes. Part of the money being withheld goes to the general treasury fund  for the collection of income tax and part of that money goes to the various Social Security funds.  This includes the disability fund and the Old Age and Retirement fund.  The Old Age and Retirement program is administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).  This is the program that provides retirement money to seniors who have worked their whole lives and are at the age where they will qualify for benefits.

The SSDI program is much like the retirement program in that you have to pay into the system through federal withholdings. That money goes into the disability fund and workers get credit for every fiscal quarter in which they work. If they become disabled and have enough quarterly credits at the date of the onset of disability, they will be said to have paid into the system.

The other part of the equation is` if claimant is in fact, disabled. This is often the most difficult part of the process, and claimants should speak with an experienced disability benefits attorney about the facts or their actual cases. The concept of being disabled is very different at the Social Security Administration than what a doctor would say.  The problem arises when people are injured and can no longer work.  We are generally not talking about an on the job injury because that would be covered under Boston workers’ compensation benefits and that is an entirely different system. There is however, some cases where a worker might be eligible for benefits under both programs so it would be best to speak with an experienced attorney who handles both work-related and non-work-related disability benefits cases.

In SSDI cases, claimant will often get turned down when they file an initial application.  This happens more often than not, because the agency denies these applications as a way to save money or delay payment. It is a sad fact that many cases take over a year before the claimant will be awarded benefits. Some claimants do not get an attorney an drop out of the process along the way.  Others who continue onward will first have a written appeal before an administrative law judge.

At this hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), the judge will determine if claimant is disabled.  This is often done by reviewing medical testimony and hearing from a so-called vocational expert (VE).  The VE uses a book called the “Dictionary of Occupational Titles” also known as the DOT.  The DOT is an archaic list of jobs and the physical and mental requirements to do those jobs. These jobs can be found in the local or even the national economy.

For example, claimant could be a skilled iron worker that makes over $100,000 a year.  If he gets injured on the job and can no longer work, he would likely file for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits unless he was in a union that provided private long-term disability insurance.  Private insurance is generally better than the SSDI, but many people do not have SSDI.

At a hearing, VE might opine that someone is worker’s position with the same or similar injuries could work as a supermarket bagger and that would be enough to qualify as being engaged in substantial gainful activity.  If claimant can engage in substantial gainful activity then they are not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.  This is the same if claimant is back at his old job making over $100,000 per year or making minimum wage bagging groceries at the Stop and Shop.

Engaging in substantial gainful activity means that claimant earns the requisite amount of money each month, or is capable of earning that amount of money. The current maximum income level is  $1,170 per month.  This mean that if you can earn $14,040 per year, you are not disabled for the purpose being disabled pursuant to the Social Security Administration guidelines.  There are several reasons this can be problematic, especially for someone who was making over $100,000 prior to becoming disabled.  The best thing a claimant can do is to speak with an experienced Boston SSDI attorney to increase the chances of obtaining a full and appropriate award of benefits. Claimants should not have to worry about not being able to afford an experienced attorney because the system was set up in such a way that claimants will not have to pay anything unless they are successful in obtaining benefits.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Dictionary of Occupational Tiles, Occupational

More Blog Entries:

SSDI Appeal Results in Affirmation of Denial, Feb. 15, 2017, Boston SSDI Attorney Blog

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