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Can I apply for Social Security disability benefits if I’m self-employed?

Yes, self-employed people can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. However, whether applicants are ultimately approved depends on a variety of factors.

If your doctor diagnosed you with a disabling injury or illness that will prevent you from performing substantial gainful activity for one year or longer (or is terminal), you may be medically eligible to collect SSDI benefits. Unfortunately, when you’re self-employed, that’s not the only thing you have to consider. The biggest obstacle to being approved for benefits is whether you’ve paid into the Social Security system.

Usually, when someone’s employed by a company, their contributions to Social Security and Medicare—known as FICA taxes—are automatically withheld from each paycheck. It’s not as simple for self-employed people to pay taxes that contribute to the SSDI program. Rather than having the taxes deducted from their paychecks, they have to take deliberate action to ensure these taxes are paid, either by submitting estimated tax payments throughout the year or paying a self-employment tax balance when filing their annual income taxes.

If you’ve been contributing to Social Security by paying your self-employment taxes, the next step is determining whether you’ve earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. You’ll need between 20 and 40 work credits to meet the eligibility requirements. For reference, workers can earn up to four work credits each year—and earning 40 credits in a 10-year period could potentially entitle you to full Social Security disability benefits.

Collecting SSDI benefits, but want to keep working? Tread carefully, as the Social Security Administration may suspend your benefits if it decides that work you’re doing constitutes substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Experienced Legal Representation for Complex SSDI Cases

Are you self-employed and applying for SSDI? Were you approved for SSDI, but found out that your benefits could stop due to SGA? The knowledgeable and skilled New York Social Security disability attorneys at O’Connor Law PLLC can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a complimentary consultation.


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