So you’re self-employed, managing a disability and unsure of what to do next. You might be wondering how you can receive assistance, and the good news is that you most likely qualify for Social Security disability insurance.

However, the application process can be difficult, and if you do end up receiving benefits, there are rules you must follow to prevent losing them. It can be complicated to figure out how to get Social Security benefits when you’re self-employed, talking to a disability benefits lawyer is a good idea.

First of All, Have You Been Paying SECA?

SECA stands for self-employment taxes. If you’ve been paying SECA for many years, you will be eligible to receive the same Social Security disability insurance as those who have employers. One rule for SSDI is that if you are continuing to operate your business or doing any kind of work, you must be tested for “substantial gainful activity” by Social Security.

What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

SGA — substantial gainful activity — determines how much work is too much for a person to receive benefits. For wage earners in 2016, you can earn up to $1,130 ($1,820 if you are blind) a month before you reach substantial gainful activity.

However, Social Security uses different tests for the self-employed. They assess your work for substantial gainful activity with either the “Countable Income Test” or the “Three Tests.” The test used depends on whether you have already been receiving benefits or are still in the application process.

The Three Tests

The three tests consist of “Significant Services and Income” test, the “Comparability” test, and the “Worth of Work” test. If you are determined as SGA, you will not receive disability benefits.

Once you are approved, you are allowed to earn over the SGA limit without losing your Social Security benefits. Instead, you will be subject to different testing known as Significant Services and Substantial Income Test.

Significant Services and Substantial Income Test

Research the details of these tests and remember these three basic rules.

  • If you are the sole owner or worker for your business and you earn more than $1,130 per month, your services could be considered significant and you could lose your benefits.
  • If you share your business or have employees, and work more than half of the total time per month needed to manage the business, your services could be considered significant and you could lose your benefits.
  • If your income is similar to what you earned prior to your disability, your services might be considered significant, and you could lose your benefits.

Other Testing

If you are self-employed, want to receive benefits, and still want to be able to work a bit, you will also be subject to the “Comparability” and “Worth of Work” tests mentioned above. These tests are further tools Social Security uses to determine if your work is SGA that you should research and understand once you receive SSDI.

How A Disability Benefits Lawyer Can Help

Because there are many tests, laws and very specific rules for qualification when you are self-employed and seeking benefits, it’s a good idea to talk to a disability benefits lawyer. An attorney will explain the tests to you in detail as well as provide you with any other pertinent information you need.

A Tampa social security lawyer can answer all your questions, walk you through the application process, explain how to avoid losing your benefits once you have them and anything else you need to know regarding your Social Security benefits.