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Obtaining SSDI Benefits When You Are Self-Employed


Many individuals are aware of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and how they can help disabled employees receive some degree of income when they are unable to work. Generally, a disabled employee who is able to prove that he/she has a long-term and total disability would be approved to receive a specified amount of money on a monthly basis, the amount being determined based on the employee’s contributions to Social Security. For employees, the contribution to Social Security is automatically deducted from their paychecks. However, for self-employed individuals, especially those who do not have regular paydays, determining their contribution to Social Security is a bit more complex. Accordingly, retaining the services of an attorney experienced in disability law can help to ensure that a disabled self-employed individual’s SSDI application is not only as complete as possible, but that it has the best chance at success. Nevertheless, the Social Security Administration (SSA), has issued some rules that govern how the income of self-employed individuals is to be calculated for purposes of awarding SSDI benefits. A discussion of these rules, and how to ensure that a disabled self-employed individual has the best chance at receiving SSDI benefits, will follow below.

SSDI for the Self-Employed

Although the SSA, as part of its evaluation of an application, examines the medical evidence for signs of disability, this analysis is the same regardless of whether the individual is an employee or self-employed. What differs is the determination of whether an applicant is able to participate in a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Generally, participating in an SGA means that an individual is capable of doing some type of significant physical or mental activity that people usually get paid to perform.

This determination is difficult for those who are self-employed, because these individuals typically perform a number of activities that take time, but they are not necessarily being paid for everything they do, such as business planning, networking, and dealing with administrative matters. Another example is doing work in an unpaid position that may result in earnings at a later time. For this situation, the SSA determines the value of the work. If the work is determined to be more than $1,090 a month, it is considered gainful and counts toward the monthly limit benefit recipients are allowed to earn.

Further, the SSA reviews an applicant’s SGA at the time he/she applied for benefits, as well as looking 24 months into the future. Referred to as the three tests, this review consists of the following questions:

  • Whether the work provides significant services to the business and brings in $1,090 or more in average monthly income;
  • Whether the work is comparable to the work of persons without disability engaged in the same or similar businesses; or
  • Whether the work is worth $1,090 per month in terms of its effect on the business or what it saves the applicant from having to pay an employee to do the work.

A positive answer to any of these questions would mean that the applicant is not disabled.


The best advice for the self-employed is to document everything. This attention to detail will greatly help the success of an SSDI application. It is also important to understand that the SSA is a governmental entity, and, consequently, honesty in reporting is not only recommended, but the law. This is important when individuals, self-employed or otherwise, work side jobs for cash. Failure to report this income to the IRS will make the individual ineligible for Social Security programs like SSDI. An experienced attorney can help ensure that a self-employed individual’s SSDI application is as accurate and complete as possible.

Get Help

If you have, or someone you love has, suffered a debilitating injury that is expected to last at least one year, and are self-employed, contact a disability benefits attorney as soon as possible. The legal team at Farrell Disability Law has years of experience in preparing viable SSDI applications, including for self-employed individuals, allowing us to submit applications that have a good chance at success. If the application is denied, we can then assist you in appealing the denial in an effort to get you the benefits you deserve. Contact our Jacksonville office today.




Farrell Disability Law is located in Jacksonville, FL and serves clients throughout Florida, including Jacksonville Beach, Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, Orange Park, Doctors Inlet, Neptune Beach, Callahan, Bryceville, Middleburg, Fernandina Beach, Clay County, Duval County and Nassau County.


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Jacksonville, Florida
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Orlando, Florida 32801
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