Comparability Test

Social Security Attorneys Assisting Individuals throughout Massachusetts

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as a self-employed or formerly self-employed individual can be challenging. Applicants are typically required to show that they are no longer able to hold down a full-time position due to their health issues, and that, after receiving benefits, they can only perform work in a very limited capacity. For those who are self-employed, it can be difficult to show that employment is no longer a possibility, or to determine what kind of work is possible after an applicant is deemed disabled. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., our Social Security lawyers can help Massachusetts residents understand the complexities of these requirements.

Self-Employment and Substantial Gainful Activity

Since disability benefits are meant only for those who are unable to support themselves through normal employment, the Social Security Administration has implemented financial thresholds for the amount of wages that an individual may receive while still being eligible for SSDI, or the amount of work an individual may perform after qualifying for SSDI. This is known as the substantial gainful activity threshold, and for typical wage-earners it is $1,090 a month.

Self-employed individuals cannot use wages as a measure of substantial gainful activity. Therefore, the SSA has created several tests that apply specifically to those who are self-employed in order to determine whether the work they are doing meets or exceeds the substantial gainful activity threshold. These are known as the three tests. The first of these tests is known as the significant services and substantial income test. If a self-employed individual does not qualify as engaging in substantial gainful activity under this test, the SSA will then consider two additional tests: the comparability test and the worth of work test. Here, we will discuss the comparability test.

The Comparability Test

The comparability test is a secondary test administered by the SSA that evaluates whether the work that a self-employed SSDI recipient does is comparable with the work of an unimpaired person in his or her community who has a similar business or occupation. If the SSDI recipient’s work is comparable to the work of the unimpaired person, the SSDI recipient will be determined to be engaging in substantial gainful activity and may lose benefits coverage.

In assessing comparability, the SSA will look at factors such as the duties performed by the self-employed individual, the skills necessary to perform the job, the time spent working, and the energy needed to perform the duties. Notably, the actual monetary value of the work performed is not at issue in this test, just whether the activity being performed is comparable to what an unimpaired individual could do.

If you qualify as engaging in substantial gainful activity under the comparability test, you will not have your benefits automatically terminated. Instead, the SSA will put you in a trial work period during which you have nine months to see if continued self-employment is possible or if you need to return to full-time disability status.

Discuss Your Government Benefits Application with a Massachusetts Lawyer

If you are a SSDI recipient who is also engaging in part-time self-employment, such as through selling items that you make or providing consulting services, it is important that you understand the full impact that this employment can have on your disability status and how your self-employment will be evaluated by the SSA. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., our government benefits attorneys can walk applicants in Massachusetts through the SSDI eligibility process. If you are or have been self-employed, we can help you understand the SSA’s three tests, including the comparability test. From our Boston offices, we represent clients from Providence and elsewhere in Rhode Island to the Merrimack River area and New Hampshire. Contact us for more information at (800) 367-0871 or online.