Gig Work and Social Security Disability: If You Pay Into the System You May Get Benefits Out

January 25th, 2019 by Attorney John Colvin

Gig work and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits

More and more Tennesseans work in the gig economy as independent contractors and freelancers, either because they can’t find a good fit with a traditional job or it’s their preference. If you’re in this position, injured and too disabled to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

If you’re self-employed and injured on the job, unless you carry your own workers’ compensation coverage or your own private disability insurance, SSDI may be your only option. It’s an income replacement insurance for those who …

  • Are too disabled to work for at least a year or have been diagnosed with a condition that’s expected to be life ending, and
  • Have paid sufficient FICA payroll or self-employment taxes (generally you need to have paid FICA or self-employment taxes for five out of the last ten years; the requirements are lower for younger workers).

If you qualify for SSDI, there are other benefits, such as obtaining Medicare coverage 24 months after collecting SSDI benefits, dependent benefits and return to work support. SSDI benefits go on until you can return to work on a regular basis or until retirement age, when Social Security old age benefits can be collected.

If you’re self-employed or work for someone else “under the table” and are paid cash, you may be tempted to save money and not pay taxes. Not only is this illegal under federal law, but if you become disabled you won’t be able to get SSDI benefits (or collect Social Security retirement benefits). To comply with the law and cover the financial risks of becoming disabled, you should pay self-employment taxes.

If you’re disabled but made the mistake of not paying self-employment taxes, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income if you can show that you’re disabled and lack other means of financial support (insufficient income and assets of less than $2,000). If you qualify for SSI, you also get Medicaid medical benefits without a waiting period. You can apply for SSDI and SSI benefits at the same time, and some applicants qualify for both.

No matter what you may or may not qualify for, the important thing is that if you find yourself too disabled to work and expect that to continue for at least a year, or you’ve been diagnosed with a fatal condition, you should call our office. There are different pieces to this benefits puzzle, and you should talk to someone knowledgeable about the system of benefits so you can decide your next step.

If you’re self-employed, worked for cash or not, paid FICA or self-employment taxes or not, you can make an informed decision about whether or not to seek disability benefits only after getting a full picture of your situation. Don’t feel a conversation won’t be worth it and give up before you even try.

For further information on Social Security disability claims and benefits, contact John R. Colvin, a practicing disability lawyer in Winchester, Tennessee, with over 20 years of experience in representing claimants at all stages of the SSA appeals process.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama