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In the Memphis Metro Area, we all love some good news. Especially when it comes to making money. Inflation is taking its toll on the great states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and we all need as much money as possible to pay the bills. Fortunately, for those receiving SSD benefits or those looking to apply for them, you can make more money in 2023 from your side hustle or regular job and still receive benefits. Mr. Heermans, of Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm says, “It’s a win for everyone because people who still want to be viable and a part of the everyday working world can still stay in the workforce and not be penalized by the offset of higher wages to inflation. Even if you are technically not making more money because it is being eaten by inflation, at least you get to keep it.” 

Mr. Heermans goes on to say, “The SSA has always had income guidelines that go along with each of the benefit categories a person may apply for and receive. These have changed over time, and the administration does its best to keep up with the economy. It is important to remember that when you receive SSD/SSI Benefits, you are basically entering into a contract with the government stating that you understand the program income guidelines/rules, and you agree to abide by them. If you do this, then there is no reason for a problem to arise. At the Heermans Law Firm, we do our best to educate our clients on how the income guidelines work, so they can maximize the opportunity to improve their quality of life and health while receiving SSD financial benefits.”

The SSA pays monthly benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability, and the benefits usually continue until recipients can work again on a regular basis. However, a person with a qualifying disability might still work. In this case, the SSA imposes income ceilings on applicants. All three of these ceilings ($1,470/month was $1350 in 2022 for non-blind individuals, $2,460/month was $2260 in 2022 for blind individuals, and $1,050/month was $970 in 2022 TWP-Trial Working Period) rose sharply in 2023. There are certain time periods that apply to each of these incomes, and it is best to consult with your disability attorney if you are unsure how or when your income affects your benefits. 

I thought I Had To Stop Working

Many people are surprised to learn that they can work and still receive disability payments. The SSA rules are quite clear that there’s a difference between employed and employable. This difference usually hinges on the definition of substantial gainful activity SGA.

The hard SGA definition is a job that pays enough, per month, to lift the applicant and any dependents above the poverty line (2023 Annual Individual Income $14,580). On an hourly basis, even minimum wage or near-minimum wage jobs usually lift families above the poverty line. But this statistic assumes the wage-earner works full time. Many disabled people, or borderline disabled people, cannot work that many hours.

Furthermore, the applicant must participate in SGA in an unsheltered environment. A family-owned business is the most common example of a sheltered environment. Family member employees may receive accommodations like coming in late or leaving early, having extra days off, or having lunch, snacks, or transportation, provided to them free of charge. All of these are most likely unavailable in unsheltered environments.

Work activity could also dictate SGA. Working as a hardware store clerk might not be SGA for someone with a college biology degree. But then again, it may be a job that works best for the person in their disabled condition. This is just a few examples of why it is important to discuss your work situation with your Heermans disability attorney if you have been denied SSD benefits or want to apply for them. 

A few additional words about the trial work period. The TWP is basically a “test the waters” SGA job. Disability recipients may work at an SGA job for up to nine months in a sixty-month period. It is also essential to point out that there is no income limit, and working the nine months period of time does not need to be consecutive.

Am I Disabled Or Just Lazy?

Note that we asked the employment question before this question. Overall, the government pays Social Security Disability benefits to supplement the incomes of people who cannot work because of their medical conditions. It seems like a catch 22…if I can’t work, doesn’t that mean that I am sick? But if I can work, does that mean that I am not sick? This is such a difficult question for people to answer on their own. Anyone experiencing a disability has probably beaten themselves up or been criticized by others for “just being lazy”. With the help of the award-winning Heermans Social Security Lawyer, you can get a FREE Disability Evaluation to help you answer this question and determine if you might qualify for SSA disability income.. 

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General disability claims, even listed condition disability claims, can take up to 9–18 months. Expedited disability review is available in two situations:

  • Compassionate Allowance: Some disability applicants, especially those with advanced ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), pancreatic cancer, and acute leukemia, might not live more than another few months. In these situations, the SSA basically rubber-stamps the claim and begins paying benefits almost immediately.
  • Quick Disability Determination: The computer-based process used to screen initial applications to identify cases where a favorable disability determination is highly likely and medical evidence is readily available. Basically, if your application is identified by the computer model, it will be flagged for fast-track processing.

Furthermore, the applicant must be unable to return to his/her old job and unable to learn a new trade or go back to school. So, a disability is a vocational as well as a medical status. More on that below.

Finally, doctors must expect the disability to last at least a year or result in death within less than a year. 

Building And Presenting A Solid Claim

Since the applicant has the burden of proof, a Heermans disability lawyer must build a solid case, usually with building blocks like medical records, vocational evaluation, and lay witness statements.

A disability is primarily, but not exclusively, a medical condition. Therefore, medical records are typically the cornerstone of a disability claim. SSA doctors will evaluate applicants to determine the nature and extent of their disabilities. 

Sometimes, these medical evaluations are inaccurate. For example, a doctor who focuses on musculoskeletal conditions might not properly evaluate a head injury-related disability claim. Social Security doctors are appointed on a “next available” basis, so applicants will get the next available doctor. They have no input in the physician-matching process.

Therefore, Social Security Disability Lawyers will ask their clients to do their best to get their medical records from their independent doctors. Vocational experts are often vital in borderline disability cases. They can help determine an applicant’s realistic employment opportunities given his medical condition, employment background, educational background, and other background information. This information can also give valuable information as to how much money an applicant may be able to earn from the type of work they may be able to do, after they are approved for SSD.

If you are currently working and also experiencing a disability, or for more information about the SSD/SSDI process, contact the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm. Call or text 24/7 at (901) 244-0057.  More value added FREE information can be found in our online article library.


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