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Can I Be Denied Disability Benefits for Non-Medical Reasons?

Posted on in Social Security Disability

Chicago social security benefits attorneySocial Security Disability Insurance provides benefits for individuals who are no longer able to work due to a documented physical or mental impairment. Indeed, most Social Security cases revolve around establishing that a disability exists and then demonstrating how it affects the applicant’s ability to work. But, in addition to insufficient medical proof of a disability, Social Security may also reject your claim for a number of non-medical reasons.

Is Your Earned Income Too High?

Social Security will assess how much money you made from “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) when assessing your disability application. The SGA is a threshold amount of earnings above which you are considered “able to engage in competitive employment.” This amount changes annually based on inflation. In 2022, the SGA threshold is $1,350 per month or $2,260 for people who are blind.

The SGA does not include unearned or passive income, nor does it include any type of income earned by your spouse. So even if you earn thousands of dollars per month from investments, interest, and other assets, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Social Security is only supposed to consider recent income from employment or similar gainful activity, not your overall wealth.

Have You Worked Enough?

Even though you cannot earn more than the SGA threshold when you apply for disability benefits, you still must have worked within the past few years. This is because disability benefits are an insurance program. In order to qualify, you must have paid into the program while you were gainfully employed.

Social Security determines your eligibility for benefits based on “work credits.” The number of work credits required depends on the applicant’s age. For example, a worker who files for disability benefits at 50 years of age requires 28 credits. A person can earn a maximum of four credits per year (one per quarter), so 28 credits are the equivalent of seven years of full-year employment.

There is also a “recent work” requirement. This means that for any worker over the age of 30, at least 20 work credits must have been earned within the 10 years preceding a disability application. In practice, this means you generally need to have worked five of the last 10 years to qualify for disability benefits.

Do I Need to Be a U.S. Citizen?

Although most disability applicants are U.S. citizens, there are cases where a non-citizen can seek benefits. Under federal law, disability benefits are available to an otherwise-qualified “alien who is lawfully present in the United States as determined by the Attorney General.” This means that if you are a non-U.S. citizen working in the country lawfully—and you have paid into the Social Security—you may be entitled to disability benefits.

You may have many other questions about the medical- and non-medical eligibility requirements for Social Security. A Chicago disability benefits lawyer can help answer these questions and assist you with our application. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, to speak with an attorney right away.




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