Are disability benefits only for low-income workers?

On the surface, it may appear that workers who get disability benefits were low income. However, those who earned fat incomes might still qualify.

In Missouri and Illinois, the Social Security Administration lays out several qualifying factors for someone to get Social Security disability benefits for a wide range of conditions such as lung disease, diabetes and cancer. For instance, a beneficiary must have worked for five of the 10 years before the disability and must have worked for a minimum of 25 percent of his or her adulthood. Perhaps most importantly when it comes to income, someone who earns more than $1,170 in 2017 might not qualify. (Blind individuals can make up to $1,950.)

However, if someone was making, say, $1 million a year and became so disabled that he or she could not make more than $1,170 a month, the previous income should not affect eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

Giving work a try again

The Social Security disability benefits program wants to encourage people to work. So, one thing it does is, it allows people on disability to give work a try again. During this trial period, benefits are not taken away, and individuals have at least nine months in a 60-month period to try to work.

This could relate to pre-disability income in a big way. Suppose Jane was a high-flying manager earning in the six figures before she became disabled, and she tries to work again as a writer for a content marketing agency. She may be incapable of using all of the skills or energy she could as a manager, but even with this disability, she is making $2,000 a month. The trial period shows that she is capable of substantial gainful activity. However, were her condition to worsen, rendering her unable to work, Jane has a quicker process back to claiming disability benefits.

Now take Mike, who may have the exact same disability as Jane. His work background is different, however. He worked as a cashier, and his disability does not let him stand or work for long periods of time. He tries to work again but quickly finds that the nature of the work he qualifies for is physical, and it is impossible to do that kind of work for more than an hour at a time.

Jane's work was not as physical, as she could sit while doing it. On the other hand, Mike's background may very well render him incapable of substantial gainful activity, at least for some time.

Speak with an attorney

The issue of disability benefits in Missouri and Illinois is complicated. If you are unable to work (or unable to work as you did before), an attorney can evaluate your options.