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Facts About SSDI Benefits And Being Self-Employed In Maryland


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program intended to provide financial support to individuals who have a disabling medical condition that prevents them from working. It is one of two disability programs managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and SSDI is based upon your work history. You must pay into Social Security for a certain number of quarters, through mandatory contributions from your paycheck. In this sense, SSDI is like an insurance policy: You pay premiums for disability benefits, and can file a claim with SSA if you need to take advantage of them.

However, there are often questions about how SSDI works for those who are self-employed. An employer is not withholding amounts through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), so you cannot accumulate work history in the same way as other applicants. Fortunately, you may still qualify for SSDI and a Maryland Social Security disability lawyer can assist with getting benefits. Some facts about self-employment and SSDI are also useful.

 Basic Eligibility Rules Apply 

The two default criteria to qualify for SSDI benefits remain in effect for those who are self-employed, so keep in mind that:

  1. You must meet the medical requirement, i.e., you suffer from a disabling medical condition that either prevents you from working or severely limits your abilities. The injury or ailment must be expected to last at least one year or lead to death.
  1. Depending on your age, you must have accumulated work “credits.” Your history includes the number of quarters that you worked in the last few years before applying for SSDI.

SGA for Self-Employed

 The key with self-employment and SSDI is whether your condition prevents or limits your work capabilities under #1 above. With wage earners, the measurement is whether you are doing substantial gainful activity (SGA); this amount is established by SSA rules. For the self-employed, wages are not a credible or accurate way to assess whether you are earning SGA.

Instead, SSA uses various tests for determining SGA for an SSDI applicant who is self-employed:

  • With your initial application, SSA applies the Three Tests. The evaluation focuses on your business services and whether you have earnings from operations. SSA may also assess your work level to determine if there is a comparable position or the worth of work for SGA purposes.
  • Once you have been receiving benefits for 24 months or more, SSA applies the Countable Income Test for determining SGA. Your earnings are the starting point, but you may remain eligible for SSDI despite being above SGA – IF you did not contribute significant services to the enterprise. 

A Maryland SSDI Attorney Can Provide Additional Facts About Self-Employment

If you are or were self-employed, SSDI eligibility rules can be complicated. You may still be entitled to benefits, so please contact the Law Offices of Steinhardt, Siskind and Lieberman, LLC to discuss strategies for getting approval. You can call our offices in Glen Burnie, Owings Mills, Ellicott City, or Annapolis, MD to set up a free case review.

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