As a Detroit disability attorney, I am very familiar with the 5-step sequential evaluation process Social Security uses to make disability determinations. The first step in this process requires the Social Security decision-maker to determine if the claimant is presently working – or, in the language of the Social Security Administration, presently engaged in “substantial gainful activity” (“SGA”). For a self-employed claimant, clearing this first hurdle can be a challenge.
Social Security uses three tests to determine if a self-employed claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity:
Test 1: Significant services and substantial income. Is the claimant providing significant services and earning more than the SGA Earnings Guidelines established in the Social Security regulations? Even if the claimant is not receiving substantial income, he or she still may be found to be engaging in substantial gainful activity based on Tests 2 or 3.
Test 2: Comparable work activity. Is the claimant’s work activity, measured in terms of hours, skills, energy output, efficiency, duties, responsibilities, and other relevant factors, “comparable to that of unimpaired individuals in the same community engaged in the same or similar businesses as their means of livelihood”?
Test 3: Greater value of work activity. Is the claimant’s work activity clearly worth more than the SGA Earnings Guidelines for a particular calendar year “when considered in terms of its value to the business, or when compared to the salary an owner would pay to an employee for such duties in that business setting”?
If you are self-employed and unable to work because of a severe physical or mental impairment, a knowledgeable Detroit disability attorney can help you sort through the SGA rules and regulations. If you are not currently represented by a Detroit disability attorney, please contact me.