Social Security Disability for Gig Workers

Gig Economy Button GridOver the past few years, you may have heard a lot about the “gig economy,” but do you know what it is, whether you are a part of it, and how it could impact your Social Security disability eligibility? Here, our Boston area Social Security disability lawyers will answer these essential questions for you.

What Is the Gig Economy?

There isn’t a standard definition of the gig economy, but generally, the term includes independent contractors, temp workers, and other on-call workers who complete single on-demand tasks rather than working for regular wages. For example, the following workers may be part of the gig economy:

  • Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare drivers
  • Freelance workers
  • Artists, including graphic designers and photographers
  • Computer and information technology providers
  • Translators
  • Writers
  • Construction workers

From 2010 to 2020, the number of gig workers in the American economy grew by about 15%, and that number is projected to keep rising through the next decade.

Gig Workers Social Security Disability Eligibility Problems

While being an independent contractor has many advantages such as flexibility and the ability to renegotiate pay often, it also has significant drawbacks. A gig worker does not receive regular wages, vacation time, health benefits, or a W-2 from an employer.

Instead, gig workers are independent contractors who must pay their own taxes. Gig workers who fail to declare the right amount of income and pay the right amount of taxes face potential legal problems and may not get the full amount of Social Security disability benefits they’ve earned if they become permanently disabled.

According to a 2019 report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, gig workers in their 50s and 60s are 25% less likely than other workers to file for Social Security disability and 33% less likely than other workers to get Social Security disability benefits if they do apply. Researchers found that the following factors may contribute to this problem:

  • Gig workers may not have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security disability. This may be because they did not work enough quarters to be eligible for benefits, or they did not accurately report their earnings to the government. Generally, if you over the age of 31, then you must have worked five out of the previous ten years to have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security disability. Fewer credits are needed if you are younger.
  • Gig workers don’t have the same access as employees to information from their employers, and they may not know that Social Security disability is an option for them.
  • Some gig workers may be afraid not to work. They may worry that they won’t be able to go back to work if they recover enough to do so. Therefore, they avoid applying for Social Security disability benefits.

Protect the Social Security Disability Benefits You’ve Earned

Of course, having enough work credits is just one eligibility issue you face if you are seeking Social Security disability benefits. To qualify for benefits, you must also prove that you have a permanent disability that prevents you from working for at least 12 months or that is likely to cause your death.

Both your work credits and disability must be clearly established in your Social Security disability application. Unfortunately, the majority of Social Security disability applications are denied. Just a small technical issue or an incomplete section on the application is enough to deny an applicant benefits.

You can avoid this type of situation by working with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer before you apply for benefits. We will make sure that your application is complete and that it has all of the necessary supporting documentation.

If your application has already been denied, then we can help you too. We regularly represent people in Social Security disability appeals in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Contact us today to learn more about how we help you get the Social Security disability benefits you’ve earned.

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer