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Can I pursue SSD benefits if I’m self-employed?

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2022 | Social Security Disability Benefits |

Many people in California make their living as self-employed individuals. This may work out well if they are healthy but if they develop a disabling illness or injury, they face the same struggles an individual who works for an employer does. It is at this point that an individual may consider applying for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. If so, they must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability and substantial gainful activity.

Defining disability

To be considered disabled for SSD purposes you must not be able to perform any substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to your disability that is either expected to be terminal or has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or more. Work is considered substantial if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities on at least a part-time basis. Gainful work is that that is done for pay or profit or is intended for profit even if a profit is actually made.


If you are self-employed there are three tests the SSA will use to determine if your work meets the threshold of SGA. One test is met if your work activities rendered significant services to the business and you earned on average above the SGA level each month. Another test is if the work you performed was comparable to the work a non-disabled person in your area of the country engaged in a similar business would do. The third test is if the work you performed was worth more than the SGA level earnings compared to the costs it would take to hire an employee to do the same job.

Seeking help with SSD benefits

Being self-employed can be a source of pride, which makes having to give up your job due to a disability especially taxing. It is important to have an ally in your corner. If you are self-employed and are seeking SSD benefits, you need to make sure you meet the SSA’s definition of disability and substantial gainful activity in order to obtain the benefits you deserve.