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SSA Disability - Denied because income too high. Can a Lawyer help?

Will hiring a lawyer help me get disability anyway?


Disability applicants are frequently denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Some assume that all denials can be appealed and if they hire the right lawyer they will eventually win disability benefits. Recently, we had a disability claimant tell us they were denied disability benefits because their income was too high, but they wanted to know if hiring a disability lawyer would help them win their case. This blog will address income and how it impacts your disability case.

Working too much to get disability benefits


By the claimant’s question it is not clear if they were applying for SSDI or SSI and whether their income was too high because they were working or because their spouse was working. First, we will address if you are working too much to get either SSI or SSDI benefits.

The first thing to understand about SSDI and SSI is that if you are able to work and perform what the SSA calls “substantial gainful activity,” you are not disabled according to the SSA. The SSA does have a dollar amount that they will consider “gainful,” and in 2012 this amount for non-blind individuals is $1,010 and for statutorily blind individuals it is $1,690.

So if you are able to work and make this amount of money, regardless of how severely injured or disabled you may be, you will automatically be denied. This denial will not be overturned unless you start making less money.

Now, if this was the reason for your denial, unless you have quit working, disability lawyers will take your case. In fact, one of the first questions they will ask you while reviewing your case is whether or not you are working. If you are working too much or making too much money they will refuse to take your case and challenge the disability denial because they know your case will be denied again.

Your spouse is working too much for you to get SSI benefits


What if you are applying for Supplemental Security Income? This is much different than SSDI benefits. For SSI, if your spouse is making too much money you will not qualify for SSI benefits.

This can be a bit confusing because if you are applying for SSDI, which means you have worked, earned credits, and you are considered insured for SSDI, your spouse’s income is not considered in the disability decision making process.

If, however, you have not worked and you do not qualify for SSDI, than the SSA will review your spouse’s income, and if it is too high, the SSA will determine you do not meet the income and resource limitations for the SSI program and will automatically deny your case, regardless of the severity of your condition.

So what’s the bottom line? If you are working too much or making too much and you are applying for SSDI or SSI, a disability lawyer will not take your case and they cannot help you win benefits, even if you are VERY sick. If you are applying for SSI because you are not insured for SSDI benefits, the SSA will evaluate your spouse’s income and if it is too high you will be denied. In this case a disability lawyer also will not help you because they know this is a nonmedical denial and cannot be challenged.
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