DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR THE ‘NEW’ ECONOMY WORKERS
The Center for Retirement Research (CRR) found that ‘contingent’ (independent contractors, consultants or those who work in the gig economy) workers in their 50s and 60s are 25% less likely to file for SSDI and even when they file are 33% less likely to be awarded.
- The report Contingent workers tend to have less job security and more unstable earnings, and often those earnings are unreported or underreported; as a result, they often do not accumulate enough covered work history to be eligible for benefits.
- Contingent workers—including independent contractors, consultants and those in temporary, on-call and “gig economy” jobs—don’t have access to employer provided information and help navigating the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process
- The author suspects some contingent workers might not find it worth the risk of pulling out of the labor force to pursue lower disability benefits that may not be enough to live on.
Social Security Disability Insurance is not a government ‘hand-out’, it is paid from the payroll taxes that are taken out of your paycheck. Drivers for Uber and Lyft for example, work “on the books,” meaning they must file taxes each year as self-employed workers, which includes payroll taxes. Besides breaking the law, individuals who work side jobs for cash without reporting to the IRS will not be eligible for Social Security programs like SSDI.
To meet the work requirements for SSDI, you had to have earned a minimum of $1360 per quarter and having worked 5 out of the last 10 years before you were disabled. Social Security’s definition of disability: “You are entitled to receive Social Security disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits when you are no longer able to perform a “substantial” amount of work as the result of a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months, or possibly result in death.” To Social Security, a substantial amount of work, called “substantial gainful activity,” is making $1,220 or more per month, before taxes (or $2,040 per month for people who are blind, in 2019).
TIPS TO INCREASE THE ODDS OF BEING AWARDED SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
You meet the qualifications but what can a gig, or contingent worker do to increase their chances of being awarded SSDI?
- Read up on the process. Learn how SSA determines if you are disabled here.
- Take the Social Security Administration Eligibility Questionnaire to see what benefits you might qualify for.
If you believe you meet the qualifications:
- Keep a detailed record of your employment history
- Compile e a record of physician visits, medications, tests and procedures. If you don’t have records, contact all your treating physicians and hospitals and ask for them. Some will charge but will sometimes waive the fee if you tell them you are applying for disability.
- Make appointments to see your physicians (or ER visits) and follow their instructions. (Learn why not listening to the Doctor can keep your benefits away here.)
- The simplest way to file is online but be patient, it can take months.
If you are denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal; if you delay, you will have to start all over again. Speak to an experienced Social Security Attorney (tips on selecting a SSD/SSI attorney can be found here). There are no fees, they only get paid if they win your case and the fees are taken out of your back benefits.
Social Security Disability is paid from your payroll taxes whether you are a full time office worker, drive for Uber, work as a consultant or a contractor. Don’t let your unique status prevent you from getting the benefits you have worked for.