What does it mean when Social Security says that I can't engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

When someone applies for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) based on a disability, that person is subject to a Five Step process to determine whether they are disabled.  Step One involves Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) - the person must not be able to engage in SGA.  Although there are exceptions, such as for the blind and sheltered work (consult an attorney if you're unsure!), for most people SGA is working and earning $1130 per month in 2016. That means to get disability benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), most people must not be working or working and earning less than $1130 per month.  If your claim is coming up for a hearing, however, and you are working and earning less than $1130 per month, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may still hold your work against you.  For example, Susan is working part-time and earning $1000 per month. Her hearing is next month and she believes that her work will not be an issue at the hearing because she is earning less than SGA. Susan may be wrong! The ALJ may use her work activity as evidence that Susan has the physical and mental capacity to work full-time, but has chosen not to in order to get benefits. Disclaimer: This post is not intended as legal advice, so don't go quit your job based on this post! Everyone's situation is different.

Beware! Baltimore Seniors are Getting Scammed by Fake Contractors!

Baltimore Seniors need to be careful when hiring a contractor to do work on their homes. Recently, at least one person has been approaching Seniors in the Canton/Highlandtown/Dundalk area and promising them quality contracting work.  "There was a guy doing work for someone nearby. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and gave all the right answers about our kitchen remodel. I trusted him because he was doing work for someone I knew, and had completed a previous job that I knew of," said a Senior homeowner from the Canton/Highlandtown area, "so we gave him $8,000 to start on the kitchen. That was 2 months ago, and we haven't heard from him since. Turns out he wasn't even a licensed contractor." In this case, the con man had previously been convicted on operating as a contractor without a license. Here are some tips to lessen the chances of being ripped off:

1. Call the Maryland Home Improvement Commission at 410-230-6309 to find out if the person you are considering is actually a licensed contractor. You can also find out if that person has any complaints against them. 

2. Log on to maryland casesearch to find out if the person you're considering has a record in the Maryland Court system.

3. Put the contract in writing before you hand over any money.  A contract will ensure that both parties are clear about their rights and responsibilities.

4. Give the contractor as little money as possible up front, and schedule payments to coincide with work completed. The contractor will be more motivated if he knows that he won't get paid until he does the work.

If you've been scammed, you can call your local Office of the State's Attorney or file a civil lawsuit.